The Port of Felixstowe has celebrated the 50th anniversary of Roll-on/Roll-off operations at the Port of Britain.
The anniversary was marked by a reception for guests and local dignitaries followed by a visit to the Ro/Ro ferry Suecia Seaways at the port’s Dooley Terminal. The event was also attended by a number of retired employees who have worked at the port’s Ro/Ro terminals over the last 50 years.
As a memento of the anniversary, Clemence Cheng, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Felixstowe and Managing Director of HPH Europe division, presented Mark Woodard of DFDS Seaways, with a framed copy of a DFDS advert from the port’s 1965 Handbook.
In 1965 DFDS operated a weekly service to Copenhagen. Fifty years on they operate three sailings per day from Felixstowe to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Speaking at the event, Mr Cheng said:
“Ro/Ro operations were introduced at Felixstowe before we handled our first container and have continued, uninterrupted, ever since. Freight ferries remain hugely important for trade with Europe and we are delighted to be celebrating this event with DFDS. Their North Sea service offers shippers a vital route for UK trade with the Netherlands and the rest of mainland Europe.”
Mark Woodard, Manager of DFDS Seaways in Felixstowe, added:
“We are very pleased to be able to take part in these important celebrations. We have operated our route for some decades now and it has developed into a high frequency and capacity driven freight service with daily crossings to Rotterdam. I believe it is important to acknowledge the professional and efficient operations here in Felixstowe where a quick turnaround time in port is extremely important to our customers who mainly trade in time-sensitive goods. We therefore congratulate the port and staff and we look forward to many more years to come of Ro/Ro in Felixstowe.”
The first Ro/Ro vessel, the 2,760 ton Gaelic Ferry, called at the port’s then newly-built No.1 Ro/Ro Bridge on 12 July 1965. That first service to Rotterdam was operated by Transport Ferry Service, the trading name of the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company (ASN). The vessel loaded 34 lorries and around 80 BMC cars.
ASN was acquired by the European Ferries group, the operators of Townsend Thoresen ferries, in 1971 and continued to operate from the port under the Townsend Thoresen brand. 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.
DFDS acquired the service previously operated by Norfolk Line in 2010. The first Norfolk Line ship arrived in Felixstowe on 6 January 1992. Other ferry services that have operated from the port over the last 50 years include those by Sealink, Tor Line, Fred Olsen and Finanglia.