The European RoRo sector adapts to Brexit, crises and decarbonisation

At a time shaped by Brexit, the Ukraine crisis and the pursuit of long-term decarbonization solutions, the European RoRo cargo ship sector is facing the challenges of fluctuating costs, trade disruptions, BREXIT and changing shipping routes.

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) reports that the number of weekly sailings between Irish ports and ports on mainland Europe has increased from 30 to over 60 sailings at various times over the year. “There are now six shipping companies offering 13 different direct ro-ro services to mainland EU ports, increasing capacity in a dynamic and competitive market,” said IMDO.

The Northern Ireland Protocol/Windsor Framework, a key aspect of the Brexit deal, addresses Northern Ireland’s unique position by avoiding a hard border with the Republic of Ireland and ensuring smooth trade flows. Under this arrangement, goods shipped from Northern Ireland to the UK via the Republic of Ireland will be subject to post-Brexit controls, prompting some hauliers to switch their shipping routes to Northern Ireland ports.

CLdN RoRo, the world’s second largest operator of shortsea ro-ro cargo vessels, has adapted to the changing landscape by expanding its services and acquire The Clipper Group’s Seatruck ferries. The pandemic and the UK’s exit from the EU have resulted in increased demand for unaccompanied cargo and a drop in total UK-Europe freight traffic. This shift has been exacerbated by a shortage of truck drivers and the push for more sustainable modes of transportation.

CLdN RoRo expects cargo volume growth in 2023, launching new services and increasing capacity on core routes. These developments are being driven in part by the transition from escorted trailers on passenger ferries to unaccompanied trailers on ro-ro cargo ships, bypassing congested ports like Dover.

Meanwhile, major operators like CLdN RoRo and DFDS are exploring alternative fuels and decarbonization efforts to comply with new regulations like the International Maritime Organization’s CO2 intensity indicator and the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme. Companies are considering options like biofuels, methanol and ammonia to power their fleets.

Asia is watching these developments closely. In a notable development, China Merchants Energy Shipping (CMES) recently signed a contract to build 2+4 methanol-powered ro-ro vessels. The contract for the two 9,300 CEU fixed ro-ro vessels includes options for an additional four vessels of the same size for a total potential price of US$384 million. The methanol-powered RoRo pair is scheduled for delivery in the first half of 2026, with the remainder to follow by the end of 2026. This order comes in response to growing demand for auto transport vessels, particularly in China, where auto exports are expanding rapidly.

In adapting to the changing landscape, the European ro-ro cargo ship sector has demonstrated its resilience and ability to innovate. Not only are operators tackling the challenges of Brexit and the Ukraine crisis, but they are also proactively looking for alternative fuels and decarbonization measures to ensure a more sustainable future for the industry.

Related Articles

Back to top button