Amsterdam – Newcastle and Copenhagen – Oslo: Project Starlight to prepare Cruise Routes for growth

BU Group Passenger needs to focus fully on completing the implementation of our new global passenger agency organisation. Therefore, People & Ships have agreed to take responsibility for Project Starlight, which aims to develop our Cruise Routes and prepare them for future growth.

DFDS is launching a new development project to enhance customer satisfaction, job satisfaction and results for our two cruise routes, Amsterdam – Newcastle and Copenhagen – Oslo.

“The global cruise business is continuously setting new standards for service and experience. Even though we are doing a great job, we also need to develop ourselves continuously to attract even more passengers to our routes and provide them with the services they have come, and will come, to expect in the future. To do this, we must ensure that we have the right organisation, operating models, sales and service models and training to attract the best people and retain our many skilled colleagues so we can grow the business. This is the aim of Project Starlight,” says Peder Gellert, EVP and Head of Shipping.

People & Ships to be responsible
BU Group Passenger needs to focus fully on completing the implementation of our new global passenger agency organisation,” says Brian Thorsted Hansen, VP, BU Group Passenger. Likewise, full focus is vital for the success of Project Starlight. Therefore, I am very pleased that People & Ships have agreed to take responsibility for the project.

“In addition to this, People & Ships are responsible for professional and personal development of people. Preparing people for future ways of doing things and requirements is a major part of the project,” he says.

To ensure maximum focus on the project and the implementation of its findings, the entire Cruise Routes organisation headed by Kim Heiberg will move to the People & Ships Division for the project period. This means that Kim Heiberg, Director, Cruise Routes Management intermediately will change reporting line to EVP Henrik Holck. “I look very much forward to this joint venture between People & Ships and the Cruise Routes Management,” says Kim Heiberg.

Project management
Project Starlight will be overseen by a Steering Committee consisting of:
Niels Smedegaard
Peder Gellert
Brian Thorsted Hansen.

It will be managed by a Project Team consisting of:
Kim Heiberg
Henrik Holck
Kasper Damgaard
and Sofie Hebeltoft from the Transformation Office.

Next steps
“The project team will now define the full scope of the project and create a structure of work streams, which we will ask managers and experts from the Cruise Routes business ashore and on board to join. We will be back with more information when the work streams and their participants are in place and they have been able to define their work and present a timeline.

Speed is, however, of the essence as we want to be as ready as possible for the upcoming peak season 2018,“says Henrik Holck.

Project Starlight’s Steering Committee

Niels Smedegaard, Peder Gellert and Brian Thorsted Hansen.

Project Starlight’s Project team

Kim Heiberg, Henrik Holck, Kasper Damgaard and Sofie Hebeltoft from the Transformation Office.




February 1, 2018

33 replies
  1. James Drennan
    James Drennan says:

    DFDS need to consider reinstating a route between the UK and Scandinavia. With the demise of the Harwich to Esbjerg route coupled with Smyril Line’s closure of their Lerwick and Bergen calls it leaves many people unable to travel by car and motorhome for holidays and other commitments without a very long journey by road. DFDS in particular should be ashamed to be concentrating on Denmark to Norway when these routes are already well provided.

  2. Lysz
    Lysz says:

    I completely agree with Mr Drennan’s comments. There are lots of inter Scandinavia routes and 3 UK-Holland crossings, what we badly lack is a UK-Scandinavia route. It has become something of an ordeal reaching Scandinavia by car from the UK and many people simply do not go anymore. And vice versa. The heyday of budget airlines is gone and, as you are clearly aware, there is a renewed interest in ferry travel. Please, DFDS, consider reinstating at least one of your old UK-Scandinavia routes and broaden your market.

  3. Paul H
    Paul H says:

    Excellent comments, I also agree. Since DFDS is expanding both cargo traffic from Sweden/Denmark to the UK and Belgium, as well as seeing a growing market for mini-cruises on these two city routes; why not invest profits from these expansive areas, into a reinstated car ferry service between the UK and Scandinavia? As simple as that! 🙂

  4. M Tuohy
    M Tuohy says:

    Could DFDS look at Yarmouth to Cuxhaven as a passenger/ car route shorter than Harwich to Esbjerg but still giving good access to northern Europe. There are now good road links to Yarmouth.

  5. Gerard Ward
    Gerard Ward says:

    When the Harwich to Esbjerg route used to run, we would always then book several cabins a year on the Copenhagen to Oslo route. Often At the club level etc.

    Echoing the comments above,
    Perhaps it is worth reviewing your feeder network as this must be losing customers and potential revenue streams. Most people now use the Color line after doing a tunnel crossing etc.

  6. Ryan Harrison
    Ryan Harrison says:

    I would agree with the comments above. I have been sailing with DFDS for many years, most recently on the new year cruise to Amsterdam, and whilst the product on your one remaining North Sea route (for passengers) is undoubtedly excellent, I regard it as nothing short of tragic that DFDS has removed every opportunity to sail to Scandinavia – you even now refuse to take any passengers of the freight ships from Immingham. What a terrible state of affairs that in 2018 the only viable option is to fly to Scandinavia!

    I would urge DFDS to be more Inventive and to find a way to accommodate both freight and passengers on a route to Denmark, Norway or Sweden.

  7. DFDS
    DFDS says:

    Thank you for your comments. We fully understand your frustration at the lack of a passenger route between the UK and Scandinavia. DFDS tried very hard to maintain these routes. The first real turning point was the closure of duty-free sales in 1999, as duty-free sales attracted many passengers to the routes. For example, the Esbjerg – Harwich route lost 200,000 passengers each year from a total of 300,000 in 1999. DFDS tried to save the route by introducing a combined passenger and freight ship on this route, because passenger numbers were too low for a passenger vessel alone. However, passenger numbers kept falling because of competition from low-cost airlines. Therefore, the passenger market between the UK and Scandinavia cannot support a passenger ship, which is much more expensive to operate than a freight ship.

    The Copenhagen – Oslo route is doing well as the ships sail between city centres, and carry almost 800,000 passengers a year.

    Unfortunately, the freight vessels (ro-ro vessels) are not allowed to take more than 12 passengers, and they are nearly always occupied by accompanying truck drivers.

    • Hasse M. Pedersen
      Hasse M. Pedersen says:

      To DFDS. I am disappointed of your response above. In our group (RHEG), representing thousands of people, both in group and petition, we do not want to use the low-coast airlines. They fly too late for us being able to continue our travels. I acknowledge the problem as regards duty free sales, but you are not being thruthful with your excuses. The real issue here is, that in 2003 you got yourself a contract with the Danish government called the ARK-project, (strategic seatransport). In 2010 this was extended, and the last 8 years you have receiv governments have since ed enogh money from the Danish government, that it can pay for 2 of the 4 Ro-Ro ships presently being built in China. The German and British governments have since joined this contract, and obviously at great cost. This is the real reason for the discontinuation of the passenger-route Esbjerg-Harwich, and you have used this also to create a monopoly on freight across the North Sea, thereby making it impossible to reinstate such a route. Had you continued with daily sailing every day like in the old days, you woulkd still have had hundreds of thousands of passengers. You have ruined a very important part of the northern European infrastructure. Shame on you !

  8. M Tuohy
    M Tuohy says:

    I note your comments above with regards to duty free sales and how it affected DFDS
    With Brexit and the UK leaving the European union surely duty free sales should come back to the ships travelling between Uk and Europe which may make it viable to run a passenger ship between uk and Denmark again?

  9. Lysz
    Lysz says:

    As above, plus the many budget airline routes to Scandinavia have dwindled to just a handful over the last few years. They no longer represent the competition they once did and, following changes at airports, many people are now willing to pay more to travel by sea rather than battle their way through airports. Surely it is worth DFDS at least taking a serious look at a picture which has changed over the last few years and which is evolving further with Brexit? Perhaps Newcastle to Gothenburg or another route would now be viable if Esbjerg isn’t? Many of us were loyal customers of yours and would like to be again.

  10. Andrea Hodgkinson
    Andrea Hodgkinson says:

    Hi. We have travelled by sea to Norway many times since 1990. There are many people that really need a route reinstated from UK to Scandinavia for both business and pleasure. The previous route from Newcastle – Kristiansand – Goteborg was ideal. Newcastle for being centrally located in the UK and Kristiansand being an excellent location for access to the whole of Norway all year. (When we could not reach the west coast due to winter snow over the mountains, Kristiansand was still accessible as we had to once change our journey because of this, we were on the last sailing back to the UK in 2006! I was told at the time this route closed as the vessel “Princess” was not efficient. However this was nearly 12 years ago and there are now clean efficient vessels available. There are many people from the UK want to visit the Norwegian mountains, stay in Hytte and bring their own car for health holidays, as did the Victorians. If you were to re-open a Ropax on this route again it could take certain freight, (which I am sure there will be an increasing market now) but also I suggest you do not offer free caravan spaces again as this often meant not enough car space was available so meant fewer passengers so in turn meant fewer cabins being booked. I hope my comments are helpful and happy to help with some other ideas being a previous frequent traveller and customer 🙂

  11. DFDS
    DFDS says:

    Thank you for the many comments to the article.

    The reference to the Ark project is incorrect. We do not have an agreement with the British government as suggested. We have a contract with the Danish and German military to provide transport of military equipment when required. The contract was made following a public tender, which we won. Four ships in our fleet are part of our so-called Ark fleet, and DFDS ordered and financed the ships.

    The four new ships we currently have on order, will not be used for the Ark project, but are destined to service our freight customers with transporting still growing volumes of freight across the North Sea from 2019 onwards.

    None of this has anything to do with our decision to close the passenger services between the UK and Scandinavia. As a private company, we will – as you hopefully understand – not be able to operate a route that will be permanently loss-making. And even though there would be many customers who would travel with such a route during the summer and holiday season, our calculations clearly indicate that it would be loss-making on an annual basis.

    There have been reports about attempts to re-open a UK-Norway service and a UK-Esbjerg service, which is free for all companies to do. Sad as it is, the conclusion has so far been the same for all: A passenger service isn’t viable any more as you can’t operate a summer-only route, or make a full-year route viable.

    We are very sorry about this, also because we did not at all like to close a route that has been with us since 1874. However, the market is a reality with which we have to deal if we want to stay a successful business and meet new challenges such as Brexit.

    Best regards

    Gert Jakobsen
    Vice President, DFDS Group Communications

    • Hasse M. Pedersen
      Hasse M. Pedersen says:

      So you are telling me Gert Jacobsen, that you have not been to the Falklands with a very heavy load of military equipment for the British government as a result of the contract, and that you have not been asked to remove chemical agents, (chemical warfare), from Syria under the contract with the Danish government ? Also, had you not had this contract, you would not have been able to monopolise the freight market across the North Sea, making it impossoble for other interested operators to reinstate a viable route ! You are not being truthful, I am afraid !

      • Hasse M. Pedersen
        Hasse M. Pedersen says:

        In any case, you have received just about 1 billion Dkr. from the Danish government ovet the l; enough to pay for 2 of your new ro-ro ships being bulit right now !

        • Kirsten Atkins
          Kirsten Atkins says:

          My sentiments exactly!
          It might not be a lot in you eyes, but thanks to you, I have had to sell my summerhouse in Denmark and thus not spending money in the shops, thereby giving the shopkeepers more buying power.
          On the last ever journey from Esbjerg we got talking to a soldier, according to him, you lost a lot of money, not transporting the army xacross the water for exercisises!

          On a parting word….the reason you gave for for stopping the Harwich to Esbjerg route was scrubbers… expensive to install, yet a few month afterwards, we find Sirena Seaways in port in Poland, having scrubbers fitted!

  12. Kerstin Eadie
    Kerstin Eadie says:

    Since 1963 we have travelled every possible rote across the North Sea in order to get to Scandinavia. We were happy to do the drive from Esbjerg to central Sweden and feel so disappointed with DFDS!.

  13. Kirsten milner
    Kirsten milner says:

    As a small child in Esbjerg, going to englandskajen to see the ship come in was a big event in the holidays. 1964 first trip on m/s Kronprins Frederik, 79 Trips later with husband and children, I did my last trip in April 2014. My umbilical cord has now been severed and I shall never go to Denmark again and I will have seen my ageing sisters for the last time. That is just my story DFDS, times that with all the thousands of others and maybe you will start to appreciate the misery you have caused.

  14. Kirsten milner
    Kirsten milner says:

    As a small child in Esbjerg, going to englandskajen to see the ship come in was a big event in the holidays. 1964 first trip on m/s Kronprins Frederik, 79 Trips later with husband and children, I did my last trip in April 2014. My umbilical cord has now been severed, I shall never go to Denmark again and I will have seen my ageing sisters for the last time. That is just my story DFDS, times that with all the thousands of others and maybe you will start to appreciate the misery you have caused.

  15. Chris Carr
    Chris Carr says:

    We really need and want our Ferry Harwich Esbjerg back ASAP. We all miss it to get to visit Family and Friends. It is so relaxing travel, ready for our onward travel to our destinations. We will not fly. We used to go every year to my brother in Law, who We will not be able to visit. The ferry also carried the older car and motorbikes, which was always great to see.

  16. Julian Sankey
    Julian Sankey says:

    I have crossed the North Sea with DFDS all my life (1960-) and was mortified when the closure was announced. Too expensive to fit scrubbers to the Sirena Seaways? Within months they had been fitted and the ship leased to Brittany Ferries where it now runs an “Economy” service from Portsmouth to Le Havre. I didn’t believe DFDS at the time and see little reason to trust anything they say now. Any chance of retrieving your tattered reputation and proving me wrong?

  17. Sally Nørgaard
    Sally Nørgaard says:

    We miss the ferry from DK to England so very much. We have family at both ends and the drive to The Hook to take the ferry is just too long a journey. Bring back our connection to the UK. Not eveyone likes to fly.

  18. Bob G
    Bob G says:

    Scrubbers on Sirena Seaways aka Baie De Seine don’t work I believe. She’s also due to leave Brittany Ferries next year so who know where she goes.
    I have travelled once to Sweden with DFDS. I hope you consider the future of Newcastle – Amsterdam to be as important as you said. The vessels are good but they’re a distant 3rd place to your P&O and Stena rivals also serving Netherlands.

  19. Peter Christensen
    Peter Christensen says:

    Could DFDS please look in to the possibilities of something like a discount franchise like the one Britanny Ferries had chartered the Sirena Seaways for, on the Esbjerg to Harwich route? My family would be happy to use the link, even if it only offered a cafeteria. And a playroom for our son ?. We, amongst others, really need a link between Denmark and England.

    • Peter Christensen
      Peter Christensen says:

      May I add, that my grandparents,my parents, my sister and I and my wife and son have used this route since the mid sixties. I see a lot of similar accounts on social media.There must be a way we can work together and make ends meet.

  20. Matt W
    Matt W says:

    I would like to add that it’s not just the Scandinavians who have been cut off from the UK but also people like us from northern Germany. We used the Hamburg-Harwich route a lot until it was closed, later Cuxhaven-Harwich until that was closed and last Esbjerg-Harwich which has also closed. We have family in the UK so been using DFDS countless times since the 70s. By closing each and every route you have lost a very loyal customer and made seeing our family very difficult. Your reasoning for closing it all down is not at all convincing. Low budget airlines are certainly not as popular nor cheap as they were a decade ago so I’m sure there is a market for at least one route to the UK.

  21. M Tuohy
    M Tuohy says:

    Mr Smedegaard
    With all the new ships technology available in 2018 /2019/2020 for the efficient running of ships, surely there must be at least one ship on the planet that could be commissioned to run between the UK & Denmark or northern Germany to carry some freight and passengers with cars as an all year service. Why is not possible to run a newish ship of the size of the old Winston Churchill with all the latest fuel saving devices.
    As a group DFDS seem to be making good money from reading news reports out of the other DFDS routes, surely enough money to cover an initial start up for a passenger/ car route to the UK.
    There are a lot of Scandinavians and UK people travelling via France and Holland in cars to get between the Scandinavia country’s and the UK what a terrible situation for us travellers to see family and friends.
    Hopefully the DFDS accountants and yourself and the project starlight project team could maybe all sharpen the pencils to reconsider to reopen a route to the UK in the near future .
    Mick Tuohy

  22. DFDS
    DFDS says:

    Thank you again for all your comments.

    It is true that we intended to provide Sirena Seaways with a scrubber after she left the Esbjerg-Harwich route. However, it didn’t work out and she has no scrubber on board today. Furthermore, a scrubber is a heavy investment, and it is associated with costs to operate it. Therefore it takes the top off the extra costs caused by the Sulphur regulation, but it does not remove it. On the Esbjerg-Harwich route, the Sulphur regulation cost came on top of the dramatic reduction in passenger numbers caused by loss of duty free sales and low cost airlines and it finally removed any hope that we would be able to turn it into a viable service. Just as we wrote when we, regrettably, had to announce the closure.

    We do understand what the loss of the route means to many of you and it was a very sad day for all of us in DFDS when we had to leave a route, which we had been servicing for more than 100 years. However, as a private company (as all private companies), we need to ensure that we are a sound business or we will not be in business for long. If it would be a sound business to operate a passenger ferry route between the UK and Scandinavia, we would do it. However, it will not be enough that this route has a lot of passengers only in the summer months. It needs to be viable at an annual basis, and all our calculations show that this will not be the case. Such a route would be making heavy losses. We simply see no opportunity for operating a viable passenger service in the light of the special staff, ship and equipment requirements associated with operating a passenger ship. This will be the same reason that has prevented other companies from opening a route – which all companies are free to do.

    As regards the VERY detailed comments about the Ark Project: As I wrote earlier, DFDS has a contract with the Danish and German military, not with the British. When the military uses the ships, it is their operation – we sail where and when they require us to sail. When in 2006 (12 years ago), a DFDS ship was required by the Danish military to sail to the Falklands, it was as replacement for a ship that sailed on a route between the UK and the Falklands, and it was the Danish military that assisted the British, not us. We just sailed the ship for a single round trip as required by the charterer, the Danish military. The British military has never been part of the Ark project contract which we have had with the Danish and later also German military since 2003.

    My colleagues tell me the ship was transporting various goods, much it civilian, to the Falklands, including a dog, which got a lot of attention in media.
    We are also very proud that our ship and crew (which received medals for it) were part of the Danish led UN operation, when our ship on behalf of the Danish military removed containers with chemicals from Syria so the chemicals could be destroyed and not used as weapons, making Syria safer. We would love to take credit for the operation. However, it wasn’t ours, but the Danish military’s operation, and just one of the many, many trips we perform on behalf of the Danish military within the framework of the so-called Ark project. Since then we have sailed chemicals from Libya for the Danish and German military as part of a NATO operation, and we sailed cars from North Africa to West Africa in 2015 when the Danish military supported the UN with fighting the Ebola outbreak. Always on behalf of the Danish and German military.

    Best regards

    Gert Jakobsen
    Vice President, DFDS Group Communications

    • Hasse M. Pedersen
      Hasse M. Pedersen says:

      Dear Mr. Gert Jacobsen.
      I have read your shameful reply.
      Should you be interested, then I, as a co-administrator of the RHEG group, will gladly accept you as a member of our group, so you can see, what we are up to.
      The other administrators may disagree with this, but then we will have to take it from there.
      If interested, then please apply here:
      Kind regards, and in the hope of a fruitful cooperation:

      Hasse M. Pedersen

  23. Andrea Hodgkinson
    Andrea Hodgkinson says:

    Hello DFDS. We have used your services both for leisure and business in all seasons regularly since 1990 and think it is a serious commercial mistake to not have a route between England and Norway that will take people as well as freight/shipping containers.

    I had to send a vehicle and trailer from Immingham to Brevik and was not allowed to travel on the ship, so had all the hassle of then having to go to Manchester Airport to then take a flight to Sandefjord Torp with then a lot of hassle to get to Brevik Port. It seems like there aren’t even enough spaces for truck drivers on the freight route vessels.

    Is it not a simple matter that two of the four brand new ships you are having made at present could take paying passengers on the Immingham to Brevik route? as you seem to have no commercial interest in the Harwich to Esjberg route. Having driven several times the 3,000 KM route across Europe from UK to Norway, I think it is totally disgrace that a professional firm like DFDS seems unable to realise there is a viable route to Scandinavia.

    In addition, DFDS told people travelling on the Princess (last sailing back to Newcastle from Kristiansand) that due to EU Emission Regulations, the vessel was being withdrawn from service. That same vessel is operating with it’s sister ship in EU waters with Moby Lines!! The same excuse was made on the Harwich to Esbjerg route. From a busness point of view, giving away free spaces for caravans, often meant whilst one could book a cabin there was then no space left for a vehicle! Not a good commercial decision.

    I did write before suggesting DFDS use some 20FT ISO shipping containers converted into accommodation units fixed on the central area of the freight ships from Immingham to Esbjerg during the peak tourism season, but you did not respond. Also the carriage of pets such as Dogs, Cats and Horses like they used to which they simply will not do even though DEFRA say it is acceptable to leave from any UK port. Its all very well running a business making vast profits but come on, where has the customer loyalty and service gone to?

  24. Yvonne Scrivener
    Yvonne Scrivener says:

    A reinstated route from Gothenburg to The UK is very much missed and much easier to board with or without a car ,well it was then instead of the looong security checks at the airport and limited amount of stuff yoy can take with you for obvious reasons. Yes I know the security checks are there to protect us but it takes the joy out of travelling big time.

  25. Kari Axelsen Diederich
    Kari Axelsen Diederich says:

    My first trip to England/Wales was as a 2 year old with my mum and grandmother in 1950 (from Norway). As a descendant of a “war marriage”, Welsh/Norwegian, I have still got relatives in the UK. And since 1967 I have managed to cross the North Sea about once a year, either from Gothenburg, Kristiansand or Esbjerg, – until DFDS stopped the Esbjerg route. – In 2016 a friend and I drove down to Hoek-van-Holland to catch the ferry to Harwich, – and that is rather far! – This spring we will once more do that trip, but for me it will be for the last time. – It is a sad decision due to my roots being in Wales, but not daring to fly, this journey is becoming too much. – If, however, a new route between Scandinavia and the UK opens, I will certainly be “on the road again”.

  26. Erik Kall
    Erik Kall says:

    To Gert Jakobsen
    Thank you for your reply. We had been using DFDS to travel to UK since 1990 and always enjoyed the crossing over the North Sea as a part of the holiday. I can understand your argument about the falling number of passengers.
    However as I see it the situation have changed since the closure of Harwich-Esbjerg in 2014. Several factors are more favourable for reinstating a new North Sea crossing. In general ferry travel from UK is showing sign of growth because of people opting out of the stress in air travel with increasing waiting time due to security checks. Not least families with children are seeking alternatives. Also the continuing roadworks in the Hamburg area means that more and more people are seeking alternatives.
    If you could combine a route to serve both Denmark and Norway you would have a much better passenger base with the increasing interest in the UK market for Norway as a tourist destination. The Stavanger/Bergen route had aprox 150.000 passengers per year until it closed. A route from UK to for instance Hirtshals via Kristiansand would also from day 1 be able to take advantage of duty free sales and as I see it have a viable passenger base.
    The situation with Brexit could further more dramatically change the viability of a North Sea crossing in a positive direction. In todays The Guardian the boss of Calais port is warning of tailback up to 30 miles in all directions and a continuous operation stack on the M20 have also been mentioned. In this scenario the demand for alternatives will be extreme. Both tourists and haulage companies will be looking for ways to avoid the channel ports. If you with your local knowledge planned for this scenario you would have a competitive advantage over other shipping companies and also be helping us who for various reasons can’t or prefer not to travel by air.
    Yours sincerely Erik Kall

  27. M Tuohy
    M Tuohy says:

    I now see that DFDS are offering passenger/car travel between Scotland and Belgium,
    Well DFDS are nearly there now.
    How about reconsidering to re-open England to Denmark/ Sweden/ Norway where there surely must be more passengers and cars to be taken on these routes with the all the freight that DFDS carry now. And with Brexit, DFDS will also be able to make money on the duty free sales from next year when the UK leave the E.U. As I remember this was one of the reasons DFDS said helped to close these routes in the first place.

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