Category "Maritime Knowledge"

Closed after 110 years: the end of the “Königslinie”

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Europe’s oldest ferry route between Sassnitz (Island of Rügen) and Trelleborg, Sweden closed by Stena Line after 110 years in service. Major impacts on international tourism for the region are to be expected after COVID19 travel restrictions are relaxed.

Germany’s oldest ferry line connecting Sassnitz, Germany and Trelleborg, Sweden.

On March 16 the ferry SASSNITZ undertook her last crossing from Sweden to Sassnitz. The shipping company Stena Line decided to close the traditional rail ferry route completely after 110 years in service. According to Stena Line, the ferry route wasn’t efficient – partly because of the pandemic-induced travel restrictions, partly due to the tense economic situation caused by lower freight volumes. The last rail traffic passed the route in 2014.

The old ferry route was of great importance for international tourism between the region and Sweden. Additionally, the route was the fastest way to travel between Germany and South Sweden. The passage took no more than four hours. The alternative route Rostock-Trelleborg takes two hours longer than the closed ferry line.

The fading doom of the old ferry line

In the past years, only 300.000 passengers crossed the countries via the “king’s line” ((Swedisch: Kungslinjen) which is the typical German term for the traditional rail ferry route between Sassnitz/Rügen, Germany and Trelleborg, Sweden. It is named after Emperor Wilhelm II as King of Prussia and the Swedish King Gustav V. According to the association “Destination Rügen – Cruise & Ferry network” the yearly passenger potential is much higher – up to 500.000 people could have used the ferry with the right Marketing strategy and aligned timetables.

The doom of the ferry line already began eight years ago. At that time the ferry line was owned by the German-Dansk shipping company Scandlines and the Swedish shipping company Stena Line. In 2012 Scandlines sold all her shares which resulted in Stena Line being the sole owner of the ferry route. Two years later the freight traffic in Sassnitz was relocated to Rostock. Later on, the shipping company cut the number of crossings to twice a day. In September 2018, the number of ferry rides dropped to less than once a day.

The sad peak was reached in autumn 2019. During the two weeks of school holidays in Germany, which is usually a popular travel season for German tourists, only 4 ferry crossings between Sassnitz and Trelleborg took place. In the whole month of November, the passenger ferry only ran six times between Germany and Sweden. After that, Stena Line withdrew the ferry Sassnitz to support on the route Rostock-Trelleborg. Since the end of April, the ferry Sassnitz is not in service being located in Uddevalla, Sweden.

Tourism highly affected by the closure

The king’s line was the only passenger ferry route between Trelleborg and Sassnitz. At Stena Line, there will only be two rail ferries between Rostock and Trelleborg left.

The ferry connection and the island Rügen are particularly popular with the Swedes. Swedish tourists like the cultural sights of the island, especially the seaside resorts, which are not available in their country. But not only the island is particularly affected by the ferry line’s suspension. The Hanseatic city of Stralsund, once ruled by the Swedes, is also likely to feel the absence of the Scandinavian tourists. Missing excursions to Western Pomerania, for example along the cultural-historical “Schwedenstraße” (The Swedes street) to Brandenburg, will be expected due to the closing of the traditional ferry route.

A glimmer of hope: High-speed catamaran might be an option

The shipping company Weiße Flotte operating several ferry lines in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and in the area of Berlin considers relocating a high-speed catamaran, usually being in service by the company compound Unternehmensverbund Förde Reederei Seetouristik (FRS) between Marocco and Gibraltar, to the Baltic Sea. Weiße Flotte is part of the company network FRS. The federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania has promised 700.000 € financial support for the project. Rather than replacing the closed ferry line, a passenger line between Sassnitz/ Rügen and the Swedish city of Ystad might be planned. The high-speed catamaran can travel between Germany and South Sweden in two and a half hours. That might definitely be the fastest way to travel between the two countries!


How “green” is very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO)?

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In recent years, international shipping has increasingly been subjected to criticism for its environmental record. It was in this context that the regulation issued by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) prohibiting vessels from burning fuel with more than 0.5% sulphur content from 1 January 2020 onwards met with a generally favourable reception. As most ocean-going vessels had previously been burning fuel oil with a sulphur content of 3.5%, it was generally assumed that the very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) would have a positive environmental impact, especially when ships are in port. So how about an initial fact check?

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Which vessels emit the most GHG?

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Three vessel types were responsible for around three-quarters of worldwide CO2 emissions in 2012. There is little reason to doubt that the Big Three are still responsible for a similar share in 2020. FleetMon provides a global overview of CO2 emissions per vessel type.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial shipping are increasingly grabbing the headlines. Like aviation, shipping had been excluded from climate negotiations because it is an international activity, while both the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement involved national pledges to reduce greenhouse gases. But as ships move around 80% of global trade in volume terms, there is a growing consensus about the need to tackle shipping’s CO2 emissions.

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Ports – a digital hub in the logistics chain?

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As transport-related information is increasingly digitalised and standardised, ports have the chance to take on a key role as digital hubs. As reported in our blog entry on April 19, the process of digitising trade documents is finally moving forward as key players launch blockchain-based initiatives. Now experts predict that before long, digitised information flows within the shipping sector will be integrated into other parts of the overall logistics chain. The experts in question are heading Port CDM (Port Collaborative Decision Making), a concept being developed under the auspices of the EU-funded Sea Traffic Management Validation project. A recent announcement from this project team indicated that a common messaging standard for port activity time stamps is being finalised with the help of the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA). Moreover, several ports are already testing Port CDM.

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