Interview with Scandlines’ CEO, Carsten Nörland

What are your reflections on last year’s experiences, positive and challenging?

In 2020, our business was severely impacted by the extreme market conditions caused by COVID-19. During a historic year marked by rigorous travel restrictions, we sustained operations and maintained a high frequency to continue to serve our freight customers and keep the vital supply of medicine, food and other critical goods flowing.

2021 was another year of uncertainty and extreme volatility as travel restrictions continued to impact our business. Again, we lived up to our responsibilities as critical infrastructure and maintained operations.

Freight continued to deliver impressive growth throughout the year (+12%). In fact, the freight figures are higher than both 2020 and 2019 and even a few percentage points higher than 2018, which was the record year so far. We expect to continue growing this part of our business in the years ahead.

Green Agenda: In the face of COVID-19, we continued to build a greener and more sustainable business poised for progress.

In May 2021, hybrid ferry BERLIN was prepared for a rotor sail by installing a steel foundation on the ferry on which the rotor sail was going to stand. The work took place when BERLIN was on a planned yard stay at Remontowa in Poland. It resulted in a CO2 reduction of 4%.

In 2021, PRINS RICHARD was fitted with new thrusters and repainted with silicone antifouling paint to improve energy efficiency and further reduce emissions. In 2022, PRINSESSE BENEDIKTE will follow as the last of the four double-ended ferries operating the Puttgarden-Rødby route. Here we had a CO2 reduction of 15%.

Total investment (four ferries, 16 thrusters): EUR 13 million.

In November 2021, Scandlines entered into a contract with Cemre Shipyard, Turkey, to build an emission-free freight ferry for the Puttgarden-Rødby route. The ferry will be inserted in 2024 and will launch the next generation of ferries on the route. Total investment including rebuild of ferry berths in Puttgarden and Rødby: EUR 80 million.

What do you expect of 2022?

In the shorter term, we expect to continue the path to normality despite a continued negative impact of COVID-19 repercussions on traffic volumes.

Regarding our two international routes between mainland Europa and Scandinavia, we expect to see a rebound in traffic and activity levels when restrictions are lifted during the spring/summer as was the case last year.

We expect to continue growing the freight part of our business in the years ahead. That is of course also why we have ordered a new freight ferry.

Have you made any special preparations for 2022 and onwards?

For tonnage development?

We have ordered a new freight ferry for our Puttgarden-Rødby route to be inserted in 2024.

For the ships operation?

Following the successful installation of the Norsepower rotor sail on the hybrid ferry COPENHAGEN in 2020, and a year of demonstrated results, Scandlines prepared the sister ferry BERLIN for its own rotor sail installation in May 2021. The hybrid ferry, BERLIN, also operates on the Rostock-Gedser route but, unlike COPENHAGEN, is flagged by Germany.

The installation of the rotor sail itself is scheduled for spring 2022. Again, it will result in a CO2 reduction of 4%.

Any new or alternative routings?

We focus on our two existing routes and continue developing them.

Sales and marketing?

A lot has happened in 2021: A sharper and more recognisable profile, digitalisation, better market insights and differentiated messages for Scandlines marketing. We’ll continue this work to sharpen our identity/profile and market insights via SMILE data (loyalty programme) with almost 1 million members.

Simplification of our ticket system: all ticket types are now flexible. As of 25 April 2022, all Scandlines passenger car tickets are valid for all departures with available capacity on the booked day.

Onboard service and concepts?

We have set out to further sharpen our retail offering to attract more passengers to our onboard shops and restaurants as well as our BorderShops.

Do you plan any change in your longer-term strategy?

The combination of our unparalleled reliability, a unique green profile and bespoke freight and retail offerings forms a solid competitive foundation for our business ahead of the planned opening of the Fehmarn Belt fixed connection in the mid-2030s.

We say many thanks to Carsten and look forward to seeing him at the Ferry Shipping Summit as panel speaker, 19-20 May in Malmö.