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DFDS Buys Ferry Leader in Strait of Gibraltar Service to Morocco

FRS Incat high speed ferry
FRS is the largest ferry operator in the Strait of Gibraltar service (FRS)

Published Sep 18, 2023 2:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

DFDS, headquartered in Copenhagen, announced that it buying the market leader in the Strait of Gibraltar market, FRS Iberia/Maroc which connects Spain and Morocco. The acquisition seeks to further scale DFDS’s business model and is aligned with DFDS’ strategy to develop and expand the transport network focused on moving goods in trailers by ferry, road, and rail as well as moving passengers.

“We are excited to expand our network to one of Europe’s significant ferry markets that we expect will continue to show high growth underpinned by the ongoing nearshoring of supply chains to Europe,” said Torben Carlsen, CEO of DFDS, announcing the deal. He notes that both the freight and passenger segments of the business are growing.

FRS Iberia/Maroc operates three short-sea ferry routes across the Strait of Gibraltar between Algeciras-Tanger Med, Algeciras-Ceuta, and Tarifa-Tanger Ville. In 2023, they expect to transport a total of 2.3 million freight lane meters, 1.9 million passengers, and 370,000 cars. According to DFDS, the total Strait of Gibraltar freight market is expected in 2023 to grow to around 475,000 units (trucks and trailers). The total passenger market is expected to increase to around 6 million passengers while the number of cars is expected to reach 1.2 million. 

FRS is currently operating seven vessels on these three routes. In June 2023 they announced the acquisition of another Incat high-speed vessel with a capacity for 640 passengers, 180 vehicles, and up to 330 linear meters of cargo. Renamed the Poniente Jet, she joined the fleet in July. FRS’s Iberia’s market share is reported to be between 28 and 30 percent depending on segment. All three segments are expected to grow 5 to 10 annually annually for the next three years.

The company’s largest route is Algeciras-Tanger Med which connects the largest industrial ports of Spain and Morocco. The route deploys two owned combined freight and passenger ferries (ro-pax) and one chartered/shared freight ferry (ro-ro). The route crossing time is 90 minutes. The route between the ports of Tarifa and Tanger Ville is focused on tourism and transports foot and car passengers with a crossing time of 60 minutes. The route deploys two catamaran ferries (HSC), all owned. The Algeciras-Ceuta route predominantly transports foot and car passengers as well as accompanied freight trailers. The route deploys two catamaran ferries (HSC), one owned and one chartered. The route crossing time is 60 minutes.

Closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory approval, including merger control clearance in both Spain and Morocco.