Short-sea operators under pressure despite cuts in capacity

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Freight capacity on UK short sea freight ro-ro, lo-lo and channel tunnel services has been cut by 4.1 per cent (600,000 units) over the past 12 months.

The impact has been felt across all market sectors except on the Irish Sea where capacity employed has actually increased by 5.9 per cent, according to “UK short sea freight ro-ro and lo-lo capacity analysis and report 2009”, by PRB Associates.

Freight demand has fallen significantly over the past year, and the report provides an assessment of how operators have attempted to match capacity supply with falling demand. A fall in volumes exceeding current capacity reductions means that operators are under pressure, hoping to weather the storm before recovery takes hold.

UK short sea capacity now stands at 14.2 million trailer / forty foot container units serving five distinct market sectors; Near Continent, Channel (including Eurotunnel), Irish Sea, Scandinavia and the Baltic.

Ro-ro provides the greatest share of short sea capacity (79 per cent) with lo-lo contributing 11 per cent of capacity. The channel tunnel shuttle and through train services currently provide the remaining ten per cent of UK short sea capacity, Shuttle train capacity having been held back to match prevailing demand during 2009.

P&O Ferries remains the market leader employing nearly 22.5 per cent of the total market capacity on a range of North Sea, Channel and Irish Sea routes. The Port of Dover handles more capacity than any other UK port (26.3 per cent).

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