Published: 12:50, 31 July 2021
| Updated: 16:13, 31 July 2021
It's been almost 30 years since the Isle of Sheppey last had a regular freight service to the continent but now DFDS has launched one from Sheerness to Calais in France.
Richard Goffin, port director of Peel Ports which runs Sheerness docks, said: "We are bringing back the service after three decades of not having one."
KMTV interview with Richard Goffin at Sheerness
The daily service, which began last month, has created an estimated 100 jobs.
Unlike previous ferry companies such as the Olau Line, which also operated a passenger service to Holland, no lorry drivers travel with the cargo.
Instead, trailers are dropped off on one side of the English Channel, loaded onto the ferry and then dropped off at the other side where they are collected by a different driver.
Mr Goffin said: "This shouldn't have a huge impact on the county in terms of vehicle movement as the trailers are coming in and out without a driver. But it should improve efficiency and the environmental impact on the roads and means we can offer a better service to our customers."
The ship, the Maxine formerly known as the Gothia Seaways, can carry up to 165 trailers at a time.
The new route expands DFDS’ existing network between the UK and Europe and comes in response to growing demand for unaccompanied freight services.
Mr Goffin said: "We don't see it as taking any freight away from Dover. It just means freight which would have gone into other locations in the UK is now coming to Sheerness."
Wayne Bullen, freight sales director at DFDS, said: "We’re really pleased to be adding a new unaccompanied freight service to the extensive route network that DFDS already offers.
"Sheerness benefits from excellent road links and is closer to the M25 than other routes, making it ideal for goods heading to the London area and the Midlands."
He added: "Sheerness promises to be a superb ‘partner port’ with an ambitious plan to grow its services over the next decade."
But he stressed DFDS was also expanding services at Dover.
He said: "Launching a new route at this time is a strong indication of our commitment to our customers, our confidence in the popularity of DFDS services and an investment that will help to boost both the UK and French economies."
Sheerness, part of Peel Ports’ London Medway cluster, operates seven days a week offering customers congestion-free access to drop and collect trailers, with no standing charges for the first 48 hours.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau, chairman at Port of Calais, said: "We are very proud that DFDS, the first RoRo (roll-on, roll-off) operator in Europe, chose Calais to propose this new unaccompanied route to the UK.
"This new service will perfectly fit with the rail motorways in operation in Calais coming from Italy, Spain and southern France."
Mr Goffin said: "Given current restrictions surrounding international travel, stricter border controls and Covid-19 threats, one of the most stand-out benefits is that by using driverless methods, the risk of delays associated to those particular challenges is reduced."
The new service has jogged fond memories of the Olau Line which ceased operating from Sheerness in 1994.