Analysis of the Department for Transport’s 2020 sea passenger data by the British Ports Association (BPA) revealed that last year ports saw the lowest number of short-sea international passengers since 1962.
The 6.9m short-sea passengers, which includes freight drivers as well as tourists, is the greatest year-on-year fall in passengers since records began in 1952.
In 2020, the number of short sea passengers on international routes fell by 63% to 6.9 million compared to 18.4 million in 2019 while, domestic short-sea passenger numbers decreased by 57% to 1.2 million in 2020 compared to 2.8 million in 2019.
From May to August, a steady increase in passengers was seen, though a large gap between usual levels remained – attributed to a lack of confidence and appetite to travel.
Statistics also support the assumption that more people than ever switched to domestic summer holidays. Domestic sea passenger figures in September were down 45% compared to the same month in 2019, which was the smallest gap between 2020 and 2019 monthly passenger figures.
Commenting on the findings, Phoebe Warneford-Thomson, Policy Manager and Economic Analyst, at the British Ports Association, said:
Following the outline of the UK Government’s roadmap out of lockdown earlier this week, the ports industry is urging the Government to bolster confidence in the travel industry as restrictions are eased and notes ferry travel as a safer and more ‘COVID-19-secure’ means of travelling. Alongside the success of the vaccine role out, the BPA also asks the Government to encourage the return to cruise when it is safe to do so
In addition, Journeys to France saw the greatest drop in passengers with an annual decrease of 63%. Though this is closely followed by other short-sea shipping routes to Europe; Republic of Ireland, Netherlands and Spain all saw an annual decrease of 60-62%.