DFDS Sells Historic Passenger Route to Focus on Logistics

cruise ferry Pearl Seaways
Pearl Seaways and her running mate will be acquired by the Swedish ferry company along with the route (DFDS)

Published Jun 10, 2024 3:20 PM by The Maritime Executive


Denmark’s famed ferry operator DFDS Seaways announced that it is selling one of its original routes that has been in service since 1866 and the founding of the company. Sweden’s Gotlandsbolaget is acquiring the route, including two ships, terminals, and employees for the mini-cruise service between Oslo, Norway and Frederikshavn and Copenhagen in Denmark.

The service is being described as a “cherished public institution in Denmark and Norway,” with both companies reporting service will continue uninterrupted. The Swedish ferry operator is paying approximately $57.6 million and expects to close the transaction in October. DFDS will continue to operate the route will October 31.

DFDS reports the route carries more than 700,000 passengers annually. Revenue in 2023 was approximately $130 million, which was about three percent of DFDS overall.

Explaining the reasoning for selling the route, DFDS says it is mostly a passenger route with cruise ferries and limited freight capacity and market size. The route operates primarily for leisure travel offering a mini-cruise lasting up to approximately 19 hours overnight between the two countries traveling approximately 275 nautical miles. 

“DFDS is however today a transport and logistics company bridging Europe and the route deserves a new owner that can continue to invest in and develop the great maritime experience the route offers for passengers,” said Torben Carlsen, CEO of DFDS.  He said the route “deserves a new owner that can continue to invest in it.” After the transaction, DFDS will have 21 Danish-flagged vessels employing around 1,100 seafarers.

Gotlandsbolaget is acquiring the Ro-Ro cruise ferries Pearl Seaways and Crown Seaways. Introduced in 1994, Crown Seaways (35,500 gt) has space for 1,790 passengers and 450 cars. Pearl Seaways was built in 1989. She is 40,000 gt with accommodations for 1,800 passengers and 320 cars. The company also is buying the port and terminal agreements and will take on approximately 800 sea and land-based employees.

“We see great potential in this business," said Håkan Johansson, CEO of Gotlandsbolaget. "We are doubling the number of employees within the group, so it is a big step for us. Gotlandsbolaget aims to expand within passenger shipping and cruises and this is a very attractive combination of the two."

Gotlandsbolaget has four ferries currently and operates the sea route between Gotland and the mainland with terminals in Visby, Nynäshamn, and Oskarshamn. The two acquired vessels will remain registered in Denmark and the company reports it will launch a new brand for the operation. This year they also relaunched the operations of Birka Stockholm, another cruise ferry. The ship was acquired after Birka closed its cruise operations during the pandemic.