Feature, Freight News, Sea

Felixstowe celebrates half century of ro ro

[ July 21, 2015   //   ]

We think of the Port of Felixstowe as the birthplace of containerisation in the UK, but the place actually started out as a ro ro terminal – 50 years ago. In 1965, DFDS launched a weekly service to Copenhagen. Ownership and patterns of services have gone through many different changes since then, but today the main regular ro ro operator is once again DFDS, now operating three sailings per day from Felixstowe to Rotterdam.

The anniversary was marked by a reception for guests and local dignitaries followed by a visit to the Suecia Seaways at the port’s Dooley Terminal. The event was also attended by retired employees who have worked at the terminals over the last 50 years.

While the container business has mushroomed around it, the ro ro terminal has been quietly doing its job. The first ro ro vessel, the 2,760 ton Gaelic Ferry, called at the port’s then new No.1 Ro/Ro Bridge on 12 July 1965, at the dawn of the roll on, roll off era. That first service to Rotterdam was operated by Transport Ferry Service, the trading name of the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company (ASN), loading 34 lorries and around 80 BMC cars.

ASN was acquired by the European Ferries group, the operators of Townsend Thoresen ferries, in 1971 and five years later, in 1976, European Ferries also bought the Port of Felixstowe itself.

The port, and the ferry company, was subsequently sold to P&O and the ferry company renamed P&O European Ferries. P&O’s ferry services from the port continued until 2002, and the route ended up in the hands of Norfolk Line – which was subsequently sold to DFDS.

Other ferry services that have operated from the port over the last 50 years include Sealink, Tor Line, Fred Olsen and Finanglia.

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