P&O Ferries has announced it will end its crossing between Zeebrugge and Hull in April, bringing to an end a 20-year-old service that has been losing money in recent years.
Like virtually every other industry, passengers ferries have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the precipitous fall in demand for transport in general, and ferry transport in particular.
The Zeebrugge route also carries a lot of freight, a business that is also under threat from Brexit and the coming changes in the trading relationship between the EU and the UK.
The company’s more popular Rotterdam-Hull route, however, will continue.
How many jobs will be lost as a result of the decision remains unclear, as the end of the route has only today been announced. P&O is reported to be in preliminary talks with unions over redundancies. Some reports suggest as many as 140 could could be at risk, among sea-faring staff and port staff in both Zeebrugge and Hull.
The two ships working the route, Pride of Bruges and Pride of York, are expected to be scrapped. Pride of Bruges, the older of the two originally named Norsun, came into service on the route in 2001, and carries up to 1,050 passengers and 141 crew, as well as 850 cars.
Pride of York, built in Glasgow in 1986 and originally named Norsea, joined the route later.
Both ships came into service for what was then called North Sea Ferries. Under the new name P&O Ferries, the transport was taken over last year by Dubai-based DP World, which operates container terminals worldwide, for the equivalent of €370 million.
The ships were taken out of service at the height of the pandemic in March and April, and only Pride of Bruges came back in August.
P&O has operated between Belgium and the UK since 1972, and before the advent of the Channel Tunnel and cheap flights, was one of the main ways people would travel between the two countries.