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World of Ships #15 - Ferries of the British Isles

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Ref: SIWOS15
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No. 15


Round the Coast Guide to Britain’s Ferry Routes

This illustrated book provides an overview of the major ferry operations of the British Isles in 2020, prior to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown of the spring, which had a significant short-term impact on services and operators. It also provides brief outline histories of ferry services from individual ports, with photographs of some older ships. 

The book is organised geographically by port, starting in the north-east and going clockwise round the coast, south to Dover, then west to the Isle of Wight, and on to the ports of South Wales, north to Holyhead, to Heysham and Cairnryan, and up to Scotland’s Western Isles and the Northern Isles.

What is most noticeable about the ships, ports and companies is the sheer variety of vessels being operated and areas being served. For example, the smaller specialised tonnage in the Western Isles of Scotland operated by Caledonian MacBrayne is a world away from the bustling port of Dover, where a series of large passenger ferries come and go with unmatched frequency. Meanwhile, several of the longer routes, such as those to the Netherlands from Newcastle and Harwich, are served by impressive cruise ferries, while the routes on the western Channel to France and Spain are in the hands of equally impressive vessels operated by Brittany Ferries. 

The future of the ferry industry was looking very bright until the pandemic changed the situation, with new tonnage either recently delivered, as in the case of Stena Line’s new ships for its Irish Sea operations, or on order, such as P&O’s large new vessels planned for the Dover-Calais crossing. The new E-Flexer vessels will no doubt be delivered largely as planned, but whether some of the older tonnage will disappear faster than planned as a result of the economic downturn remains to be seen, but the trend for ferries being ever larger is likely to continue.

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