Monday, April 23, 2018

RoRo Ferry Freight Service Ceases Permanently Following Fire Aboard Ship

DFDS Abandons Loss Making Rosyth - Zeebrugge Route
Shipping News Feature
UK – BELGIUM – DFDS has permanently abandoned its RoRo freight ferry services between Rosyth and Zeebrugge following the fire aboard the freight ship Finlandia Seaways last week. Smoke inhalation injured one crew member who had to be airlifted to hospital following the blaze on April 16. Upon towing the vessel to the company's terminal in Immingham and discharging the cargo, a full examination of the ship was carried out. Kell Robdrup, Senior Vice President of DFDS' routes connecting to the southern part of the North Sea, takes up the story:

“The inspection revealed substantial damage to the ship’s engine room, and we estimate that it will be out of service for several months for repairs. Furthermore, our search for a replacement vessel was fruitless and revealed that there are no suitable ships available. Unfortunately, this will bring about further losses on the route, and it means that we have lost all hope of being able to turn around the route’s loss-making situation. Therefore, we have no alternative but to close the route as we undoubtedly will lose clients who will be forced to seek alternative solutions for their transport.

”We are extremely sorry for the effect this has on our customers and partners in Scotland and Belgium. In cooperation with the Scottish Government and the port, we have tried everything in our power to save the route. This included going from a combined passenger and cargo ship to a freight ship, reducing costs by enabling double stacking of containers and reducing fuel costs by installing a scrubber to remove sulphur from the exhaust gas instead of using expensive, low sulphur fuel.

”However, the route continued to make losses. And with the new situation with the ship out of service for months the market, the customers and the financial situation will be negatively affected, and make a turnaround and a reopening unrealistic.”

The Finlandia Seaways was off the Suffolk coast en route to Rosyth when the fire broke out at around 10pm. The eighteen man crew of the Lithuanian registered vessel responded immediately and the fire was soon under control. The 11,500 tonne vessel was towed into Immingham by two tugs and was subject to an investigation by fire service personnel, one of whom said at the time:

"Regrettably, a crew member who was in the engine room at the time of the incident, was injured and was airlifted to a hospital in the UK where he is being treated for injuries to his eyes and lungs. His wife was informed and is now with him. No other persons were injured.

"Multiple agencies attended the DFDS Nordic Terminal in Immingham in order to put into place a plan to begin investigations into the cause of the fire. The shore-side operations were co-ordinated by HFRS with the assistance of ABP, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and DFDS operational staff.

”Fire crews from Immingham and Peaks Lane Grimsby boarded the vessel shortly after docking. Once the area of the engine room was declared safe, the vessel was handed over to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch to begin their investigation."

DFDS say the closure of the service will only affect a very limited number of people employed directly by the company as port handling was performed by external contractors. No decision has yet been taken regarding the deployment of the stricken Finlandia Seaways when she returns from her repair docking.

The route was described as a ‘vital link’ by Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister in July 2015 when she spoke of the €6 million investment announced at that time in a joint initiative by DFDS and Forth Ports to ‘secure a long term perspective’ for the service. DFDS still connects the UK with the continent via ten alternative routes.

Photo: Vehicles were unable to discharge after the vessel docked until the investigation was under way.