P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries
P&O Ferries
Type Private
Industry Transport
Founded 2002
Headquarters Dover, United Kingdom
Key people Helen Deeble, CEO
John Garner, Fleet Director
Karl Howarth CFO
Products Ferries
Port services
Passenger transportation
Freight transportation
Parent Dubai World
Website www.poferries.com

P&O Ferries (formerly P&O European Ferries) is a British ferry operator owned in entirety by Dubai World.

The companies primary routes service both passengers and vehicles and operate between Dover and Calais in the English Channel, Kingston upon Hull and Zeebrugge and Rotterdam on the North Sea and between Cairnryan and Troon and Larne as well as Liverpool and Dublin on the Irish Sea. They also operate freight only routes between Tilbury and Zeebrugge and Teesport and Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.

P&O Ferry Pride of Rotterdam one of the Hull-Rotterdam sister flagships of P&O Ferries



P&O had originally established ferry services in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s with services in the North Sea. In the late 1970s P&O was affected by a reduction in traditional shipping activities which saw the sale of a number of its businessess and assets. This continued into 1985 when it sold its cross channel ferry activities to European Ferries[1], which at the time consisted of services between Dover-Boulogne and Southampton-Le Havre.[2]

In January the following year, P&O purchased a 50.01% interest in European Financial Holds Ltd, which held 20.8% of shares in European Ferries[1], this was followed in 1987 with the purchase of the remaining shares of the European Ferries Group whose ferry services were trading as Townsend Thoresen. Following the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster in March 1987, the operations of Townsend Thoresen were renamed P&O European Ferries on 22 October 1987, with operations from Portsmouth and Dover.[3]

Following a consultation with the Competition Commission beginning 28 November 1996[2], P&O European Ferries split into three separate subsidiaries: P&O Portsmouth, P&O North Sea and the creation of a joint venture between P&O and the Swedish ferry company Stena AB's UK subsidiary Stena Line (UK) Ltd to create P&O Stena Line in Dover.[2]

In April 2002, P&O announced its intention to purchase Stena Line's 40% share of the joint venture. The purchase was completed by August and in October[3] the Portsmouth and North Sea operations were merged with the Dover operations to create P&O Ferries Ltd in its current form jointly managing all services from its head office, Channel House in Dover.

In September 2004, P&O Ferries Ltd conducted a business review that concluded with the announcement of closure of several of its long term Portsmouth based routes, leaving only the Portsmouth – Bilbao route in operation. These closures were predominantly blamed on the expansion of Low-Cost airlines and the increasing usage of the Channel Tunnel as a faster alternative to ferry operations.[4]

On 15 January 2010, P&O Ferries announced that it would be closing the Portsmouth - Bilbao route by the end of September when its existing charter for the Pride of Bilbao ends. This will mean the closure of the final route served by P&O Ferries in Portsmouth.[5][6]


Passenger / freight routes

Route Vessels
Dover - Calais Spirit of Britain, Pride of Canterbury, Pride of Kent, Pride of Burgundy, Pride of Calais
Hull - Rotterdam Pride of Rotterdam, Pride of Hull
Hull - Zeebrugge Pride of York, Pride of Bruges
Larne - Cairnryan European Highlander, European Causeway, Express
Larne - Troon Express,
Liverpool - Dublin Norbank, Norbay European Endeavour

Freight only routes

Route Vessels
Teesport - Rotterdam Norsky
Teesport - Zeebrugge Bore Song, European Trader
Tilbury - Zeebrugge Norqueen, Norstream

Dover – Calais

P&O Ferries currently operates a fleet of 5 multi-purpose passenger ferries and 1 freight only vessel.

The MS Pride of Dover and MS Pride of Calais were originally ordered by Townsend Thoresen as purpose-built vessels for the DoverCalais route. Following the purchase of Townsend Thoresen during construction, they were delivered to P&O European Ferries in 1987 and began operating soon after. They were built by Schichau Unterweser in Bremen-Vegesack, Germany.

MS Pride of Burgundy, MS Pride of Canterbury and MS Pride of Kent were originally ordered as three of four freight vessels for the DoverZeebrugge route with the names European Causeway, European Pathway and European Highway respectively. The Pride of Burgundy was converted mid-construction and entered service in 1993. The European Pathway, European Highway and the fourth vessel MS European Seaway were completed and entered service with the DoverZeebrugge route.

Following the closure of the Dover – Zeebrugge route in 2002, European Pathway and European Highway returned to their builders and were converted to full passenger mode, eventually re-entering service as the Pride of Canterbury and the Pride of Kent. The fourth vessel, European Seaway was transferred to the Dover – Calais route in early 2005 where she still operates as a freight-only replacement to Pride of Provence.

Two other ships, Pride of Aquitaine and the Pride of Provence were withdrawn from service as part of the review of P&O Ferries operations announced in September 2004.

On 17 December 2007 the Dover fleet was joined by the MS European Endeavour, a new freight ferry to complement the European Seaway. This ship previously saw service at Dover with Norfolkline as the Midnight Merchant. The "European Endeavour" has since been relocated to the companies Liverpool - Dublin route.

It was announced on 8 August 2008 that P&O Ferries had placed a €360 million order with STX Europe for two new ships to replace the Pride of Dover and Pride of Calais. The new ships will be 49,000 gross tonnes and 210 metres in length making them the largest ferries on the English Channel. They will also be the first ships in the world to comply with the new SOLAS "Safe Return to Port" requirements.[7] The first of these new ships MS Spirit of Britain arrived in Dover on 9 January 2011 and the second is scheduled October 2011.[8] The construction of the first vessel began on 3 March 2009 at STX Europe's shipyard in Rauma, Finland.[7]

Hull – Rotterdam (Europoort)

The Kingston upon Hull to Rotterdam route is taken by P&O's flagships of the ferry fleet, sister ships Pride of Hull and Pride of Rotterdam. Both ships were built in Venice, Italy by Fincantieri's Marghera Shipbuilders, and were delivered to P&O in 2001. Both ships took 14 months to build, have an overall length of 215.1m, a gross tonnage of 59,925t, displacement tonnage of 25,113t and have a service speed of 22 knots. In terms of gross tonnage, these sister ships were the biggest passenger ferries in the world but this title is now held by the 75,100t Color Magic, they are however still the largest passenger ferries to operate from the United Kingdom. Pride of Rotterdam was launched by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on April 25, 2001. Pride of Hull was named on November 30, 2001 by the then British Prime Minister's wife Cherie Blair.

Hull – Zeebrugge

The Hull to Zeebrugge route is operated by the 1987-built vessels Pride of York and Pride of Bruges. This route has previously inherited vessels transferred from the Hull-Rotterdam route. The Pride of York (formerly Norsea) was built at Govan, Glasgow and its sister, Pride of Bruges, formerly Norsun, was built at Tsurumi, Japan.

Former routes

Portsmouth – Cherbourg

The route had begun under Thoresen Car Ferries in 1964 with the revolutionary 'Viking' class fleet of ferries. P&O European Ferries took over in 1987 with two Mark 2 Viking class vessels, Pride of Cherbourg1 and Pride of Winchester and remained in operation until 1994 when they were replaced by the two 'Super Vikings', the Pride of Cherbourg 2 and the Pride of Hampshire which served the route until their eventual replacement by Pride of Cherbourg 3 in September 2002. At the end of the month the Pride of Hampshire was also withdrawn leaving the new Pride of Cherbourg as the only conventional ferry on the route. Many disliked the new timetable offered using the new ship and despite a similar timetable being successfully used by Brittany Ferries Poole-Cherbourg passenger service during the summer for many years it is seen as a contributing factor to the eventual downfall of the route.

The conventional route ran 3 times a day under Townsend Thoresen and later P&O, with two day sailings (morning and mid-afternoon) running 5 hours and one overnight sailing running 8 or 9 hours. From 2002, the new vessel ran twice daily, sailing in the morning (4 hrs 45 mins) and the evening (5 hrs 45 mins), with shorter night sailings as she was faster but had less capacity. On Friday night 'Cabaret Cruises' the Viking class vessels were assisted (since 1993) by the larger Pride of Bilbao, with capacity for 2,500.

Additionally, between 1998 and 2004 a three times daily FastCat service (3 hours) ran between Portsmouth and Cherbourg, which initially began between 1998 and 2000 on Superstar Express, which was chartered from Star Cruises. The highly successful Superstar Express was replaced in 2000 by the larger Incat 91m catamaran Catalonia which was marketed under the name Portsmouth Express. The change to the larger vessel did not go smoothly and the new ship suffered a number of technical problems forcing P&O Portsmouth to recall the Superstar Express for a short time from its new home on the Carinryan-Larne route until the problems were solved. The Portsmouth Express gained a reputation of being unreliable and services were frequently cancelled due to technical problems and the weather but her larger size and long term charter agreement meant she remained on the service for a number of years. For her 2003 season she was painted in standard P&O Ferries livery and her trading name was shortened to "Express" with her official name becoming Catalonia A. In her final season in 2004, the vessel was officially renamed Express but adopted the trading name Cherbourg Express.

Following the announcement of the 2004 P&O Ferries business review, the Portsmouth - Cherbourg fastcat service ceased operation in October 2004 and the ferry route closed in January 2005. It was run solely by P&O's rival company Brittany Ferries until October 2009 when Celtic Link began operating a daily service on the route. This was unsuccessful, and Celtic Link ceased operating the Portsmouth - Cherbourg link in less than a fortnight.

Brittany Ferries have since instigated a thrice-weekly service from Portsmouth to Cherbourg

Portsmouth – Le Havre

The route began under Thoresen Car Ferries when they decided a second route from their Southampton base was required to meet growing traffic demand. Using the Viking class ferries, they operated a three-times daily service, sailing in the morning and afternoon (5 hours 30 minutes) and one overnight sailing (eight hours). All three vessels used both the Le Havre route and the shorter Cherbourg route.

In 1967 Normandy Ferries opened their route in competition to Townsend Thoresen's, sailing twice daily with one morning and one afternoon sailing (night sailings and cabins were not offered). This now put the two British groups in a three-way competition with French rivals Brittany Ferries. P&O bought out Normandy Ferries becoming P&O Normandy Ferries and maintained its twice daily schedule. By 1985, the three-way competition became a head-to-head struggle with Brittany Ferries after P&O sold their services to Townsend Thoresen. In 1987 P&O returned to the Portsmouth market after purchasing European Ferries Group Ltd.

P&O European Ferries, continued a three-times daily schedule to Le Havre. The need for bigger ships was in high demand especially due to the Vikings' low passenger and vehicle numbers. In 1991 it was decided that the Mark 1 European class freighters (minus European Gateway) should move to back up the freight side. The back-up fleet went down to two in 1993 with the departure of European Clearway to Rosslare. The two remaining Mark 1 European class freighters stayed until the introduction of two German-built vessels, the Pride of Le Havre and the Pride of Portsmouth in 1994.

The demand for bigger ships with higher freight and passenger capacity had now been met.. The two remaining Mark 1 European class freighters moved to Ireland in 1995 to back up Falmouth until January 2006 when they left for their new owners SNAV in Italy. They were renamed SNAV Lazio and SNAV Sardegna respectively and now operate from Civitavecchia to Palermo, in Sicily.

LD Lines now currently operates a two-ship service following the removal of the Norman Voyager and Norman Spirit, from Portsmouth to Le Havre with the high-speed catamaran Norman Arrow and the conventional ferry Cote d'Albatre.

Portsmouth – Bilbao (Santurtzi)

Pride of Bilbao, an archetypical cruiseferry. Built for Viking Line and operated by P&O Ferries between Portsmouth in the UK and Bilbao in Spain from 2002 to 2010

Launched by P&O European Ferries in 1993 the Bilbao route and the Pride of Bilbao continued as they had done in the pre-P&O Portsmouth days. The service operated twice weekly with the Pride of Bilbao running a party cruise to Cherbourg on Friday nights returning on Saturday afternoon. She was also frequently used to cover refits of the Pride of Portsmouth, Pride of Le Havre and Pride of Cherbourg.

The Pride of Bilbao operated P&O Ferries' longest route between Portsmouth and Bilbao. The Pride of Bilbao was often late arriving at its ports due to the unpredictable weather conditions in the Bay of Biscay. The wind has been known to reach Force 12 and recently (in July 2010) she was six hours late due to a force nine gale in the Bay of Biscay.

On 15 January 2010, P&O Ferries announced they will withdraw the service between Portsmouth and Bilbao. The ship will be returned to the Irish Continental Group, from whom it has been used on charter since 1993.[6] After a refit the vessel is being purchased by St Peter Line.

The Pride of Bilbao completed its final voyage for P&O on 28 September 2010. It has now be announced that P&O Ferries rival operator Brittany Ferries will take over this route for the 2011 season.

Portsmouth – Ouistreham (Caen)

In Summer 2004 P&O Ferries operated a Portsmouth to Caen route using the Incat 91 model catamaran Max Mols from Mols Linien, trading under the name Caen Express.

On September 28, 2004 P&O Ferries made the announcement that it would shut down all its Portsmouth services, except for Portsmouth–Bilbao. The Caen Express was returned to her owner in October 2004 and the Cherbourg Express was sent to P&O Irish Sea. The last crossing of Pride of Cherbourg for P&O was on January 14, 2005. The Le Havre service closed on September 30, 2005.


Current Fleet

Name Built Entered service Tonnage Passengers Registered Notes
Spirit of France 2011 2011 49,000 2,000 United Kingdom Dover
Spirit of Britain 2010 2011 49,000 2,000 United Kingdom Dover
European Highlander 2002 2002 20,464 410 The Bahamas Nassau
Pride of Hull 2001 2002 59,925 1,360 United Kingdom Hull
Pride of Rotterdam 2001 2002 59,925 1,360 Netherlands Rotterdam
European Endeavour 2000 2007 22,152 214 United Kingdom London
European Causeway 2000 2000 20,646 410 The Bahamas Nassau
Norsky 1999 2002 19,992 12 Netherlands Rotterdam
Norstream 1999 2002 19,992 12 Netherlands Rotterdam
Express 1998 2005 5,902 900 The Bahamas Nassau Chartered from Buquebus
Norbay 1994 2002 17,464 114 Bermuda Hamilton
Norbank 1993 2002 17,654 114 Netherlands Rotterdam
Pride of Burgundy 1993 2002 28,138 1,320 United Kingdom Dover
Pride of Kent 1992 2002 30,635 2,000 United Kingdom Dover Rebuilt 2003
Pride of Canterbury 1991 2002 30,635 2,000 United Kingdom Dover Rebuilt 2003
European Seaway 1991 2002 22,986 220 United Kingdom Dover
Pride of Calais 1987 2002 26,443 2,260 United Kingdom Dover Due to be withdrawn from service in 2011 with introduction of Spirit of France
Pride of York 1987 2002 31,785 1,240 United Kingdom Hull
Pride of Bruges 1987 2002 31,598 1,240 Netherlands Rotterdam
Bore song 2011 2011 17,884 12 Finland Helsinki
Norqueen 1980 2002 17,884 12 Finland Helsinki
Norcape 1979 2010 14,087 12 The Bahamas Nassau
European Mariner 1978 1998 1,598 12 The Bahamas Nassau Sent to scrap in July 2011
European Trader 1978 2008 4,928 12 Netherlands Rotterdam

Former Fleet

Name Period of service Fate
Baltic Ferry E (1987–1992)
Pride of Suffolk (1992–2001)
1987–2001 Transferred to P&O Irish Sea
Stena Line
Stena Line
Portsmouth Express (2000–2002)
Express (2003)
Cherbourg Express (2004)
2000–2004 Transferred to P&O Irish Sea
Europic Ferry E (1987–1992)
European Freighter (1992–1993)
1987–1993 Sold to Med Link Lines
European Clearway E 1987–1996 Transferred to P&O Irish Sea
European Enterprise E (1987)
European Endeavour 1 (1987–1996)
1987–1996 Transferred to P&O Irish Sea
TransEuropa Ferries
El Salam Maritime
P&O Irish Sea
GA Ferries
P&O Irish Sea
Max Mols (Caen Express) 2004
P&O Irish Sea
Nordic Ferry E (1987–1992)
Pride of Flanders (1992–2002)
1987–2002 Sold to Stena Line
Pride of Dover 1987–2010
Pride of Bilbao 2002–2010 Sold to St Peter Line, now MS Princess Anastasia
Pride of Cherbourg 3 2002–2005 Sold to Interislander
Pride of Free EnterpriseE (1987–1988)
Pride of Bruges 1 (1988–1999)
P&OSL Picardy (1999–2001)
1987–2001 Sold to TransEuropa Ferries
Pride of Le Havre 2 1994–2005 Sold to SNAV
Pride of Portsmouth 1994–2005 Sold to SNAV
Spirit of Free Enterprise E (1987)
Pride of Kent 1(1987–1999)
P&OSL Kent (1999–2002)
PO Kent (2002–2003)
1987–2003 Sold to GA Ferries
Stena Cambria 1998–1999
Stena Empereur (1998)
P&OSL Provence (1999–2002)
PO Provence (2002–2003)
Pride of Provence (2003–2004)
1998–2004 Sold to GA Ferries
Stena Fantasia (1998–1999)
P&OSL Canterbury (1999–2002)
PO Canterbury (2002–2003)
Stena Royal (1998–1999)
P&OSL Aquitaine (1999–2002)
PO Aquitaine (2002–2003)
Pride of Aquitaine (2003–2005)
1998–2005 Sold to LD Lines
P&O Irish Sea
Viking Valiant E (1987–1989)
Pride of Le Havre 1 (1989–1994)
Pride of Cherbourg 2 (1994–2002)
Pride of Cherbourg A (2002)
1987–2002 Sold to El Salam Maritime
Viking Venturer E (1987–1989)
Pride of Hampshire (1989–2002)
1987–2002 Sold to El Salam Maritime
Viking Viscount E (1987–1989)
Pride of Winchester (1989–1995)
1987–1995 Sold to Lane Lines
Viking Voyager E (1987–1989)
Pride Of Cherbourg 1 (1989–1994)
Pride of Cherbourg II (1994)
1987–1994 Sold to Fred Olsen Lines
E - Acquired from European Ferries 1 2 3 - Denotes the order in which different vessels carried the same name.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Report into the Merger of P&O and European Ferries Group Plc". Monopolies and Mergers Commission. December 1986. http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/rep_pub/reports/1986/208pen_oriental_steam_nav_comp_euro_ferries_group_plc.htm. 
  2. ^ a b c "Report into the Merger of P&O and Stena Line AB". Monopolies and Mergers Commission. November 1997. http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/rep_pub/reports/1997/409stena.htm. 
  3. ^ a b "No. 00237626". Companies House Company. http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk/d486dada6d67a415164b1c2e3a8a3503/compdetails. 
  4. ^ "P&O to slash workforce by 1,200". BBC News. 28 September 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3696126.stm. 
  5. ^ "P&O Ferries withdraw from Bilbao". P&O Ferries. 15 January 2010. http://www.poferries.com/tourist/content/pages/template/_footer_About_about_P&O_Ferries_press_releases_PR_-_P&O_Ferries_to_withdraw_from_Bilbao_service_in_September.htm. 
  6. ^ a b "Portsmouth to lose Pride of Bilbao ferry service". BBC News. 15 January 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/8461624.stm. 
  7. ^ a b Reinikainen, Kari (2009-03-03). "STX Europe starts production of first of P&O Ferries' two newbuildings". Cruise Business Online. http://www.cruisebusiness.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=259:stx-europe-starts-production-of-first-of-pao-ferries-two-newbuildings&catid=43:latest-news-catecory&Itemid=115. Retrieved 2009-03-04. 
  8. ^ "P&O Ferries order new ships". P&O Ferries. http://www.poferries.com/tourist/content/pages/template/routes_dover_-_calais_new_ships_new_ships.htm. 

External links