Ferry between Flanders and Scotland is being evaluated, says Bruges mayor

As soon as next year, the direct ferry route between Belgium and Scotland – which ceased to operate four years ago after a fire broke out on the Finlandia Seaways ferry – could be reinstated, initially for freight but later also for passengers.

Danish shipping company DFDS is evaluating the ferry link between the Port of Antwerp Bruges (the recently merged ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge) and Rosyth, which is around 25 km from Scotland's capital Edinburgh, according to Bruges mayor Dirk De fauw. The route had operated between 2009 and March 2018.

"This will be unique in that there are currently no shipping lines from Scotland to Belgium and only a few unaccompanied freight routes from England to Belgium," a statement from the mayor read.

The first ships are expected to set sail between the two destinations around April next year, and the crossing will take around 20 hours travelling at a speed of 21 to 22 knots (around 40 km/h).

The ships will have capacity for approximately 2,000 metres in lanes for freight vehicles, as well as 100 passenger cars and up to 100 cabins, and will make three roundtrips per week. However, a second vessel could be added subject to market demand, which would see the capacity and frequency of the route increase.

In the final year that the route was serviced by the RoPax vessel — the ship that will once again be used from 2023 — it transported around 19,000 trucks, trailers and containers, 16,000 cars and 54,000 passengers.

Holidays by car

De fauw explained that over the last few years, the conditions for operating the route have improved.

An initial study from the Scottish side (Derek Sloan of Ptarmigan Shipping, which is in charge of the negotiations) showed that this direct service between Scotland and the European continent could be competitive in price, for both freight and passengers.

From an economic and environmental perspective, the benefits are clear, as the shipment of goods between Belgium and Scotland via sea would shorten their transit time and would see road mileage decrease and result in fewer truck drivers on roads in England, thus also reducing congestion in light of their overall lack of capacity.

From a tourism perspective, travelling by air has become less popular in light of the "complicated" summer this year, which saw thousands of flights delayed and cancelled due to strikes and staff shortages. Additionally, many tourists travel through Scotland by car and prefer taking their own rather than hiring one on the spot.

Finally, De fauw pointed to various government commitments, as well as customers and competitors, to reduce the carbon footprint linked to travel. "This will be achieved by operating the route, which will have a significant economical benefit for Scotland, and the Region of Flanders," the statement read.

Flanders Minister-President Jan Jambon already confirmed earlier this year that the route was being discussed and that "would lead to great economic opportunities for both destinations."



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