The owner of Irish Ferries cut overall losses last year as revenues improved from the easing of travel curbs and entry onto the Dover-Calais route.
Irish Continental Group’s 2021 pre-tax losses declined to €4.1 million from €18 million in 2020 as total revenues rose to €334.5 million from €277.1 million year-on-year.
The ferries division’s earnings of €23.2 million was broadly in line with the €22.3 million achieved a year earlier.
The company said: “The division saw increased revenues from the easing of travel restrictions and commencement of the Dover-Calais service which was offset by an increase in costs, driven primarily by higher fuel prices and increased activity.
“As in the prior year, when the group also faced challenging trading conditions, our diversified revenue streams and cost containment measures protected our strong balance sheet.”
Irish Ferries’ services on the short-sea route between the UK and France started on June 29 with the deployment of the Isle of Inishmore.
The route was boosted with the introduction of second ship, Isle of Innisfree, in December.
A third ferry acquired for the route, to be named Isle of Inisheer, is expected to enter service in the first half of 2022.
“The introduction of a third ship onto the route for Irish Ferries will strengthen our position on the route and ensure we are a viable alternative to the incumbent operators,” the group said.
Chairman John McGuckian added: “2021 was another challenging year for the group, with a continuation of travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“However, it was also a year of significant progress, in particular with the commencement of Irish Ferries’ services on the strategic Britain-Continental Europe short sea route between Dover and Calais.
“It has been a long-term objective of the group to expand into this route and its commencement in 2021 is all the more impressive given the current difficulties in our market caused by the pandemic related travel restrictions.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our colleagues who made retention of all critical services possible through the Covid-19 pandemic that is now hopefully behind us.
“As in the prior year, particular thanks go to our colleagues on our front line in the ports, on our ships and in our terminals. Again, this year and throughout this pandemic, their dedication to their roles kept our ships sailing, our terminals operating and crucially the supply lines of our island open.”