Peel Ports London Medway welcomes new freight-only ferry service

Peel Ports London Medway will welcome a new freight-only ferry service on 1 June, connecting Sheerness and Calais from award-winning ferry operator, DFDS.

Peel Ports London Medway welcomes new freight-only ferry service
Photo: Peel Ports

The new service, operated by the Gothia, can carry up to 165 unaccompanied freight units (trailers or containers without drivers) and will offer one daily sailing in each direction between the two ports.

The new service will exploit capacity partly enabled by resilience funding in 2019 from the Department of Transport (DfT), and will support growing demand for unaccompanied freight services to support market changes and adapt to the changing demands of cargo owners, hauliers and shipping lines alike.

Port owner, Peel Ports, says the Port of Sheerness offers excellent connectivity to road and rail routes into and around the UK and has invested heavily in enhancing its facilities and services, making it the perfect port to accommodate this new service.

Richard Goffin, Port Director, London Medway said:

“We’re delighted to welcome a new unaccompanied freight service from DFDS. This is the first ferry service since Olau Line ceased operating in 1994. Over the past year, we have Brexit-proofed a number of our ports, including London Medway, increasing resiliency to handle additional cargo to help reduce delays and maximise efficiencies for customers to provide a more attractive proposition and UK entry point over other southern ports.

“Our strategic location provides proximity to market benefits, and we are continuing to drive forward with planned investment in our people, processes and technology, creating further opportunities for our customers through diversification, as well as the creation of up to 100 direct and indirect local jobs.”

The combination of challenges posed by Brexit and Covid-19, has exposed drivers and haulage companies to vulnerabilities in supply chains worldwide. This has resulted in many cargo owners and carriers re-assessing their transport plans and choosing different ports, different shipping methods, and switching transport modes in order to preserve supply chains.

There has also been a shift away from heavy reliance on driver accompanied RoRo traffic transporting goods via Dover and the Channel Tunnel, towards greater use of the unaccompanied model. Given current restrictions surrounding international travel, stricter border controls and COVID-19 threats, one of the most standout benefits is that by using driverless methods, the risk of delays associated to those particular challenges is reduced.

Goffin added:

“Our dedicated RoRo facilities can accommodate unaccompanied freight, providing a huge opportunity for RoRo operators to gain uncongested access to London and the South East easily through London Medway, saving on steaming time. The announcement of this new service is indicative of this shift and the growing demand for unaccompanied freight services.”

Wayne Bullen, Freight Sales Director at DFDS, said:

“We’re really pleased to be adding a new unaccompanied freight service to the extensive route network that DFDS already offers. Sheerness benefits from excellent road links with a close proximity to the M25 orbital ring, which is ideal for goods heading to the London area and the Midlands”.

“Sheerness promises to be a superb ‘partner port’, with an ambitious plan to grow its services over the next decade. We also continue to cement our partnership with the port of Calais and are excited to be expanding our services to the port as it marks the fulfilment of its multi-million-pound expansion project”.

“Launching a new route at this time is a strong indication of our commitment to our customers, our confidence in the popularity of DFDS services and an investment that will help to boost both the UK and French economies. It aligns with our business strategy, helping us to expand our freight network and offer solutions that help our customers, communities and our own business to grow.”