Coronavirus Restrictions Force Permanent Closure of One of Europe's Oldest Ferry Routes

A ship on one of the oldest ferry routes in Europe did a lap of honor on April 29 as the coronavirus pandemic forced the route to permanently close.

The Sassnitz–Trelleborg ferry line ran between Sassnitz in Germany and Trelleborg, Sweden, and was one of the oldest ferry routes in Europe, running since 1909, according to local media. It is known as the Royal Line (Königslinie).

Stena Line, the ferry operator, had initially announced on March 14 that the route was to be suspended until further notice. However the company announced on April 8 that the route was to permanently close, prompted by the dramatic drop in passengers due to coronavirus restrictions.

“Due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and following travel restrictions in Europe, Stena Line has experienced a large decline in travel bookings and freight volumes. It is estimated that passenger figures will not recover until well into 2021. As a result of the significant reduction in revenue, the Company is forced to take tough decisions in order to cut costs and secure its vital supply lines of essential goods across Europe,” Stena Line said in a statement.

“It is very difficult for us to tackle the plans to close the royal line Sassnitz-Trelleborg, one of the oldest ferry routes in Europe – especially with regard to our employees," said Ron Gerlach, Trade Director and Managing Director Stena Line Germany. “We have to assume that the number of passengers on the route will not recover in the foreseeable future and that it will not be possible to cover the costs in any other way. Therefore, the steps to plan the route closure are unfortunately inevitable.”

The company said that in recent years, approximately 300,000 annual passengers travelled via Sassnitz-Trelleborg, while freight volumes and train traffic on the route had declined.

This video shows a ship on the Sassnitz–Trelleborg route completing a lap of honor on April 29 as other ships sound their horns. Credit: German Maritime Search and Rescue Service via Storyful