UK – BELGIUM – RoRo operation P&O Ferries finished 2017 with yet another record in a year which provided the company with several other significant milestones in terms of trade. The Tilbury – Zeebrugge route saw an increase of 4.3% in freight volumes with 185,908 units carried over the 12 months to 31 December. The company operates two ferries on the route – the 20,000-tonne sister ships Norstream and Norsky each sailing 12 times a week in total on the eight-hour crossing.
P&O Ferries has previously expressed the group’s optimism as regards UK – Continental trade and is now responsible for 27,000 voyages per year on its eight routes between Britain, France, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Holland and Belgium where Zeebrugge remains the group’s main continental hub. Nick Pank, P&O Ferries Head of Freight – North Sea, said:
“These outstanding volumes show the growing popularity of the route from the continent to Tilbury, which we expect to rival Calais-Dover as a gateway to Britain within ten years. Given the strategic location of Tilbury, the closest port to London [with] 18 million people living within 75 miles, the vast majority of the goods we carry are consumables such as wines, spirits, dairy, water and a wide range of other supermarket products.
“Freight customers like the route because we can load and unload our ships in just four hours, thereby enabling them to get out of the port gates and on to the road quicker than if they travel with any of our competitors. The time it takes for our customers to drop off and collect units at the port of Tilbury is also exceptional, for a trailer it is 20 minutes and for a lift unit it is 30 minutes.”
P&O now operates more than 20 vessels which carry 10 million passengers and 2.2 million freight units annually and Zeebrugge offers dedicated freight routes to and from Teesport and Hull as well as Tilbury. The company has enhanced rail facilities at the port which handle the growing proportion of its cargoes originating in Central and Eastern Europe. Exporters from Britain can benefit from onward connectivity to northern Spain and Gothenburg via services operated by lines in partnership with P&O Ferries.
Together with its multimodal and logistics division, P&O Ferrymasters, the company also operates integrated road and rail links to countries across the continent including Italy, Poland, Germany, Spain and Romania. P&O Ferrymasters also owns a rail terminal in the Romanian city of Oradea, which facilitates the onward movement of goods to Britain from Asian countries via the Silk Road.