(Please see UPDATE at end)
Superfast Ferries have today announced they will discontinue their ferry service from Rosyth in Scotland to Zeebrugge in Belgium effective mid-September 2008. The service was exceedingly convenient for passenger and freight transport between Scotland (and the very north of England) and Belgium and from there elsewhere in Europe. I've also used this ferry link for a couple of years now to facilitate journeys by carfrom Scotland to my holiday home in Spain.
This is a huge disappointment to me, if not exactly an enormous surprise. I have used the ferry several times and found the 18 hour crossing an ideal way to take my car to Europe, avoiding the alternative lengthy drives to Hull, or even worse to Dover, Portsmouth or Plymouth. For my next trip to Europe with my car I had been planning to use the ferry to travel to the Netherlands for Christmas and New Year at the end of this year for two or three weeks - I'll now have to look at alternatives and, because I would have been travelling with my elderly mother, was reluctant to fly, the ferry service being a much easier mode of travel for her and for those accompanying her, may decide to cancel the trip altogether; the only viable alternative ferry crossing (Hull to Zeebrugge) involves an additional 5 hours of driving over the 3-hour trip to Rosyth and therefore, for practical purposes, would require an overnight stop.
It seems that rising fuel costs may be at the root of the decision to axe the link. Although very popular with passenger traffic, freight traffic is probably the real revenue generator and the increase in diesel costs and the fact that the crossing is now only every second day (since the seond ship was taken off the route a couple of years ago) may have made this crossing less attractive to freight hauliers.
In any case it's a real shame. The Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') says it is hoping to identify an alternative carrier so that the link can be maintained - I hope it succeeds, but know that shipping (freight particularly) is a cut-throat business so am not certain if another carrier will be able to devise a more viable model than Superfast, seemingly a pretty efficient operator, was able to come up with.
UPDATE: (Thursday 18SEP08 23.43 RST) Pleasing news today! A replacement operator for the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry link. Norfolkline, is to begin operating the link next April; I have written about this welcome development here.