The only passenger ferry crossing from the UK to Denmark and Scandinavia is to be withdrawn by operators DFDS Seaways at in September 2014. The last ferry to travel this historic route – which has been around in some form or other since 1875 – will depart on 29 September 2014, the end of the main summer season.
DFDS say that the closure is a result of increased running costs and falling demand, probably due to wider availability of low cost flights. Passenger figures for the route fell from 300,000 to around 80,000 per year.
The ferry to Esbjerg is the perfect option for those travellers from UK, especially those taking a car, caravan or motorhome, wanting to explore the Scandinavian countries. There’s plenty of choice of destinations, including further ferry routes to Sweden and Norway. The Esbjerg ferry truly is (was) the gateway to Scandinavia.
With the announcement that it will be closed later this year, ferry travellers from the UK have no options to sail to anywhere further east of Holland. The ferry from Harwich to Germany has long since been closed. Likewise, the ferry crossing from Newcastle to Stavanger in Norway was withdrawn in 2008. Sadly, now the only ferry to Denmark is about to go the same way.
DFDS announced that Sirena Seaways, the vessel currently operating on the route, will be used on other routes rather than sold. Likewise much of the crew members will also be transferred to other routes, although the future of some of the shore-based staff is less than certain.
A change in EU’s environmental laws also means the requirement to use low-sulphur oil from January 1, 2015. DFDS expect that this would add an extra £2 million per year to operating costs of the Harwich – Esbjerg route.
The freight route between Esbjerg and Immingham, on Humberside, is set to remain in operation for the foreseeable future at least.
Alternatives to Harwich to Esbjerg Ferry
So what are the alternatives for UK passengers wanting to take the ferry to Denmark, or to get to elsewhere in Scandinavia or Germany?
Fortunately another passenger ferry route from Harwich – the Harwich to Hook of Holland crossing operated by Stena Line – appears to be going from strength to strength. Passenger figures for this route have increased by around 9% in 2013, perhaps in some part because of the investment in Stena Line’s “Super ferries”, the Stena Hollandica and Stena Britannica, which came into operation in 2010.
However, for those wanting to get to Denmark, Hook of Holland ferry port is a good distance away at around 850km or 525 miles, a drive which takes over 8 hours and probably more, since the route involves driving through (or close to) Hamburg, one of Germany’s biggest cities.
If the ports of Hull or Newcastle are too far out of your way (perhaps you live in the south of England), then the best alternative will be taking a Channel ferry to France (Dunkirk or Calais for example) and preparing for a long drive through Belgium, Holland and Germany, before you reach Denmark and Scandinavia.