Back in April 2014 DFDS announced ° that they were ceasing operating the Harwich to Esbjerg route after 139 years of loyal service later in September this year.
This was a poignant route for the line so it must have been an incredibly tough decision to make though the economics meant that this was an inevitability. With mounting costs and dwindling passenger numbers there is only so long a service could have been provided.
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The announcement does mean that the UK no longer has a sea route to the entire Scandinavian region. Scandinavia can still be accessed by ferry in a round about way if you sail to The Netherlands and drive up through Germany. An alternative would be a cross-Channel sailing with a long drive up through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. Neither of these are particularly enticing unless you are taking a motor home or caravan and are planning a lengthy break taking in many European countries along the way.
I wonder how this will impact on visitor numbers to Scandinavia? For casual holidaymakers looking for a short and cheap getaway it's unlikely that Scandinavia will now be a viable option. Esbjerg offers a selection of tourist attractions such as maritime museums, wonderful seafood restaurants and historic attractions that may now suffer as a result of the route cessation. Time will tell whether the lack of vital mini cruise passengers affect this small Danish city and the wider economy.
I'd love to see a new or resurrected sea route to Scandinavia but I'm not sure that would happen, or if it does I doubt it would happen for a very long time. The Harwich to Esbjerg route closure shows just how much things have changed. Globalisation has changed the world we live in and as a country we're now more dependant on freight coming in from different countries than before. Similarly we are now able to travel the world even easier than ever before. With exotic destinations within easy reach you'd think there wasn't much call for a new sea route to Scandinavia but I reckon there is untapped potential.
I do wonder whether a better placed route from somewhere like Newcastle to key destinations such as Oslo or Copenhagen would attract greater passenger numbers? The Newcastle to Amsterdam route, also run by DFDS, is popular with foot passengers and appears to be thriving. The problem with my grand master plan is the freight. To sustain a profitable route you need a good healthy mix of freight and tourist passengers. I'm not sure as a country we produce much that we export to Denmark, Norway or Sweden and I don't think we import enough from Scandinavia either to sustain this hypothetical route.
On top of that my master plan could potentially cannibalise an existing route so rather than growing the business it could just be an exercise in numbers with no or negative passenger, revenue and profit growth.
So will a sea route be established any time in the future between the UK and Scandinavia? I'm hopeful but doubtful. I'd love to go on a mini cruise to explore destinations such as Oslo or Copenhagen but my money is on me doing that on a cruise ship rather than a ferry.
How about you? Do you think a new sea route between the UK and Scandinavia will happen at any point in the future?