The number of cars carried by ferries increased by 1.7% from 8.6 million in 2015 to nearly 8.8 million in 2016, marking the fourth successive year of growth, according to Discover Ferries, the industry body for ferry operators.
Representing 11 ferry operators in the UK and Ireland, Discover Ferries reports that growth for car travel by sea is up by 473,000 in the past four years from just 8.3 million car crossings by sea in 2012.
The industry body confirmed that the biggest growth in ferry travel in 2016 came from an increase in domestic travel within the UK. Total passenger ferry journeys within the UK increased from 16 to 16.7 million and the number of car carryings increased from 3.7 to 3.9 million year-on-year.
Travel in Scotland, particularly in Western Scotland, performed well in 2016 as the number of passengers travelling by ferry increased from 5.9 to 6.5 million, together with 1.79 million cars.
The Isle of Man, with 557,000 passengers and 177,000 cars, and the Isle of Wight, with 8.8 million passengers and 1.8 million cars, also saw strong traffic. More than 300,000 people also visited the Channel Islands with 84,000 car journeys by sea last year.
Ferry travel between Great Britain to Ireland and Northern Ireland totalled 4.7 million passengers last year and 1.2 million cars, representing a rise of 1.3%.
3.6 million cars to Western Europe
In total, ferry travel accounts for one in ten travellers to Western Europe. Up to 14.6 million passengers travelled between UK and France by ferry, while the Netherlands welcomed more than 1.8 million passengers by sea in 2016. Belgium and Spain both welcomed more than 310,000 and 320,000, respectively.
Last year 3.65 million cars were carried on ferry routes between the UK and the near continent. More than two million of these cars travel via Dover, one million via Western Channel ports including Newhaven, Plymouth, Poole, Portsmouth and Weymouth and a further 450,000 cars are carried via Hull, Harwich and Newcastle.
“Over the past decade our ferry members and partners have constantly innovated and invested to ensure travel by sea is as superb experience and it’s exciting to see the results of that work coming through in our 2016 results,” Bill Gibbons, director of Discover Ferries, said.
Discover Ferries member ferry operators include Brittany Ferries, Caledonian MacBrayne, DFDS, Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, P&O Ferries, Red Funnel, StenaLine and Wightlink.