New sulphur rules cause closure of the Harwich-Esbjerg ferry route

DFDS' historic passenger ferry route between Harwich and Esbjerg​ has been struggling for a long time with high costs, loss of passengers and freight being switched to road transport. The route is therefore unable to bear the substantial additional costs that a new environmental law will entail. It will close on 29 September 2014. DFDS is now gathering its efforts to secure the major freight route between Esbjerg and Immingham and the many jobs that this route also generates.

Unfortunately, 29 September will mark the end of an era and the possibility of sailing directly from Harwich to Esbjerg, Denmark, on the historic ferry route that opened in 1875 with the inauguration of the port of Esbjerg.

The loss of tax-free sales and increasing competition from low-cost airlines mean that passenger numbers have fallen from 300,000 to around 80,000. Transport of industrial cargo between the UK and Denmark has also declined.

DFDS has worked ​​hard to cut costs on the route to make it more competitive. Among other tactics, the route was changed into a combined freight and passenger service, the number of crew on board was reduced, slow steaming was introduced to save fuel, the number of departures was decreased and centralised sales tried to increase passenger numbers with aggressive marketing. "But unfortunately we haven't been able to reduce costs enough to enable the route to bear the very high additional costs of around £2m a year," says DFDS CEO Niels Smedegaard. "This is what the new environmental law and the requirement to use low-sulphur oil will cost based on current oil prices from 1 January 2015.

"The route is of particular historical significance to DFDS so it's a very sad day for us all. Our regrets go to our many passengers who must now see the last passenger ferry route between the UK and Scandinavia close. It's also regrettable that up to 130 jobs on board and ashore will be affected by the closure, even though we are fortunate that we can offer jobs to everyone onboard on other routes."

The Esbjerg-Immingham freight route
DFDS will do everything to ensure freight customers still receive a good service on the freight route between Esbjerg and Immingham. The two big and modern vessels offer a daily departure each way with a crossing time of 18 hours. "This route will also be hit by the substantial extra costs as a result of the new sulphur rules. We therefore need to keep a tight focus on costs to prevent the transfer of freight to road transport that will otherwise become a consequence of the new sulphur rules. We will therefore step up negotiations with employees, partners and other stakeholders to find solutions to reduce costs and increase flexibility. That will help us ensure the route's development as an important transport route between the UK and Denmark - and also as an important employment base," says Niels Smedegaard.

Alternative passenger routes
DFDS operates a number of passenger routes from the UK to France and Holland, including our daily Newcastle-Amsterdam service on the North Sea and our frequent cross Channel services from Dover to Dunkirk and Calais in France, which comprise up to 44 sailings a day. We also operate two ferry routes into France across the Western Channel, which sail from Newhaven to Dieppe and Portsmouth to Le Havre on a daily basis. These routes enable us to continue to provide our passengers with a choice of convenient entry points into Continental Europe and beyond.

SIRENA SEAWAYS, the vessel which has served the route since 2003, will be moved to other duties.


For further media information, please contact a member of the DFDS PR team on 01732 779 087 or email

Notes to Editors

About DFDS

DFDS is Northern Europe’s largest integrated shipping and logistics company, with a network of 30 routes and 50 freight and passenger ships. In 2012, DFDS transported 5 million passengers across the 11 passenger routes. DFDS prides itself on offering world-class facilities and services and the widest choice of ferry routes into northern Europe. In the UK, the company operates passenger ferry services on routes from Dover to Calais, Dover to Dunkirk, Harwich to Esbjerg, Newcastle to Amsterdam, Newhaven to Dieppe and Portsmouth to Le Havre. DFDS has been named the ‘World’s Leading Ferry Operator’ for the last three years (2011, 2012 and 2013), as well as ‘Europe’s Leading Ferry Operator’ at the prestigious 2012 and 2013 World Travel Awards. It was also the only recommended ferry operator nominated by Which? Travel (2011). DFDS operates up to 44 sailings a day between Dover and France on its Dover-Dunkirk and Dover-Calais routes and two daily services on the Portsmouth to Le Havre crossing. It also offers two daily sailings between Newcastle and Amsterdam and up to four crossings a week between Harwich and Esbjerg in Denmark. In addition, the DFDS network includes a passenger and freight service between Newhaven to Dieppe, which has four daily sailings and is operated by Transmanche Ferries. For further information about DFDS, or to find out about the latest sailing times, fares and offers across all routes from the UK, visit