P&O FERRIES has off-hired a further ro-ro cargoship from its operated vessel fleet as it appears to show signs of retrenchment from the unaccompanied short-sea European trailer markets.
The 2,100 lane metre capacity Estraden (IMO: 9181077) had been time chartered from Finland’s Bore since 2015.
It served on the P&O Ferries Middlesbrough to Europoort service, which now appears to have been axed, with Estraden making its last sailing for the company on January 22, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.
P&O Ferries’ latest moves to reduce capacity follows the decision last year to replace seafarers employed on British employment contracts with offshore contracts in an effort to cut its wages bill.
Service cuts made by P&O Ferries have no bearing on its current crewing arrangements, since the vessels were time chartered and utilised attached crews.
Nevertheless, the withdrawal of capacity suggests that the company is facing a losing battle against more nimble competitors, in particular CLdN and DFDS, in the unaccompanied European trailer market. At the same time, the market has been having to contend with a downturn in demand since the third quarter of 2022.
P&O Ferries looks set to continue serving Middlesbrough with its existing operation from Zeebrugge, though this service has recently been reduced to only two sailing per week, down from six sailings.
The re-delivery of Estraden to its owner marks the third ro-ro cargoship to have been off-hired by P&O Ferries this month.
It follows the time-chartered, 120-trailer capacity, Seatruck Pennant (IMO: 9372688) which operated on the company's Liverpool-Dublin service, and the 180-trailer capacity Bore Song (IMO: 9443566) which latterly serviced the Tilbury-Zeebrugge route. Both vessels were returned to their owners earlier this month.
No plans for replacement of the vessels appear to be in place while P&O Ferries has not responded to a request for information on the matter.
Only two P&O Ferries operated vessels now sail in the North Sea — the 180-trailer capacity Norsky (IMO: 9186182) and Norstream (IMO: 9186194), which serve between Tilbury and Zeebrugge and Zeebrugge and Middlesbrough.
While P&O Ferries has withdrawn capacity from its Middlesbrough-Europoort service, shortsea containership operator A2B Line is confirmed to be doubling its existing Rotterdam-Middlesbrough connection to four sailings per week in the near future.