P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways have reached an agreement to make freight space on their Dover-Calais ships available to one another
The space charter agreement is aimed at "maintaining customer service levels on the route and ensuring its continued resilience."
Under the agreement, freight drivers arriving at Dover or Calais can board the next available sailing, irrespective of whether the ferry is operated by P&O or DFDS.
David Stretch, CEO of P&O Ferries, said: “After the pandemic, during which we did everything we could to keep essential goods moving at a time of national crisis, the best way to ensure that we can continue to run vital freight services on Dover-Calais is to build on our relationship with DFDS and enter this space charter agreement.”
Filip Hermann, Vice-President and Head of Channel Routes for DFDS, said: “Our focus is always to improve the ferry offering to freight customers. With this new space charter agreement in Dover-Calais we offer faster crossings and flexibility to relieve congestion and keep trade flowing.”
The agreement comes into effect this summer and covers the eight vessels currently operated on the route - five from P&O and three from DFDS.
"The agreement will maintain service levels for our customers by reducing the time drivers spend waiting at the ports, giving them access to a departure every 36 minutes and reducing gate-to-gate journey times by an estimated 30 minutes,” said a joint statement."
This clearly suggests that the slot charter is not a way of reducing tonnage deployed on the route in order to cut costs, even though pax transport is still very restricted.
The agreement does, however, create a "duopoly" on the route, even though Irish Ferries, will start operations on it in June, in a relatively small way. It is not clear whether P&O and DFDS sought clearance from the competition authorities. At the time of posting, our question on this point had not been answered.
A sailing every 36 minutes in each direction is bound to be of concern to Eurotunnel.