About this release
This statistical release presents final statistics on sea passengers on both international and domestic routes to and from the UK for 2021. This is the first time that we are producing one annual report in the summer, replacing the separate short sea and all routes releases and improving the overall timeliness of the series. If you have any further feedback on this publication please email sea passenger statistics.
International passengers are those that travel on international routes. These are broken down into short sea (ferry) routes and passengers on cruises and long sea journeys.
Domestic passengers travel on domestic routes, including domestic sea crossings, domestic cruises, river ferries and inter-island journeys.
These statistics include all vehicle drivers, their passengers and foot passengers on ferries.
Comparisons have been made to 2019 as well as 2020 as 2019 was the last full year before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started.
Interactive maritime dashboard
In this release, for the first time, the department will be publishing a maritime statistics dashboard. Explore maritime trends further using interactive maps and visualisations via our dashboard. This includes sea passenger statistics by port and destination, as well as maritime freight statistics.
In 2021, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continued to affect both international and domestic sea passenger numbers. The number of international sea passengers continued to decrease in 2021, but at a slower rate than in 2020. 2020 figures were higher than those in 2021 largely because the start of 2020 was not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Domestic sea passenger numbers increased in 2021 though remained lower than 2019 levels.
International sea passenger numbers decreased by 21% to 5.6 million in 2021. This follows a gradually declining trend in international sea passengers from 2010 to 2019, and a sharp decrease from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (chart 1).
Domestic sea passenger numbers increased by 44% to 29.8 million in 2021. This follows a broadly stable trend in domestic sea passengers from 2010 to 2019, and a sharp decrease from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (chart 1).
Chart 1: UK domestic and international sea passengers, 2010 to 2021 (SPAS0101, SPAS0201)
For international passengers in 2021, compared to 2020:
- the total number of international short sea passengers (ferry routes) decreased by 22% to 5.4 million
- cruise passengers increased by 70% to 181,000 due to the cruise industry restarting in 2021, however this is still a 92% decrease compared to 2019
For domestic passengers in 2021, compared to 2020:
- the total number of sea passengers on domestic routes was 29.8 million, an increase of 44%
- the number of passengers on river ferries increased by 32%, but remained 31% less than in 2019
- inter-island passengers increased by 46%, but remained 31% less than in 2019
- domestic sea crossings increased by 90%, but remained 21% less than in 2019
Impact of the coronavirus pandemic:
This release covers the period of the government’s announcement, and implementation, of measures to limit the impact and transmission of COVID-19. Since March 2020, measures particularly relevant to sea travel included the introduction of lockdown, self-isolation, and subsequent international travel policies. This release presents the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international and domestic routes. It should be noted that these sea passenger statistics include tourist, leisure and business travel, as well as freight drivers accompanying cargo. Freight drivers were exempt from many of the travel restrictions the government put in place to ensure continual flow of freight.
Background to sea passenger statistics
Infographic 1: Breakdown of types of sea passenger routes
This statistical release presents the complete statistics on all sea passengers to and from the UK in 2021. It includes (infographic 1):
International routes: These include all passengers travelling for pleasure on cruises and long sea journeys to and from the UK.
Domestic routes: All other short sea passenger routes, including routes between Great Britain and the Orkney and Shetland Islands, domestic cruises, domestic river crossings and inter-island routes.
Impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international short sea passenger routes
Overall trends compared with 2019 and 2020 (SPAS0107)
In 2021, the number of short sea passengers on international routes decreased by 22% to 5.4 million compared to 6.9 million in 2020. 2020 figures were higher than 2021 largely because the start of 2020 was not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Comparing only the months of April to December, 2021 passenger numbers on international short sea routes were similar to 2020 numbers. The number of passengers in 2021 was 71% lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2019 (chart 2).
Chart 2: International short sea passengers by month, 2019, 2020 and 2021 (SPAS0107)
In January and February 2021 passenger figures were 71% less than those in the same months of 2020 as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic only started to be seen in March 2020. In January 2021, all travel corridors were suspended and pre-departure testing was introduced, reaching the second lowest monthly number of passengers on record. From January to May 2021, passenger numbers stayed relatively stable with February seeing the introduction of managed quarantine facilities for red list arrivals, and with March 2021 the introduction of fines for travelling abroad without good reason.
In May 2021, the traffic light system was introduced for international travel with different quarantine rules depending on whether arriving from a country marked as red, amber or green. From June to August 2021, passenger numbers increased until a peak in August, however still remained well below pre-pandemic levels in 2019. This peak in passenger numbers coincides with those departing and returning from holiday. This increase occurred alongside changes to rules for isolation and testing for passengers arriving from amber list countries depending on vaccination status in July and August. Please see the timeline provided in the annex for more details.
From September to December, passenger figures steadily decreased, as is usual in the autumn months, apart from a slight increase in October when a new system classifying countries between “red list” and “rest of the world” was implemented. In September 2021, passenger numbers were above those in September 2020 and remained above those in 2020 until December. With measures introduced in response to the omicron variant, December 2021 numbers were similar to numbers reported in December 2020.
Trends by country of origin and departure (SPAS0108)
In 2021, passenger numbers to and from all countries with short sea routes continued to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst many restrictions, including the traffic light system, did not apply to the Republic of Ireland as it is part of the Common Travel Area, France, the Netherlands, and Spain were on the amber list (requiring a negative COVID-19 test before travel and on days 2 and 8 after arrival as well as quarantining at home for 10 days) from May. Whilst all 4 of these countries still had passenger numbers lower than that of 2019, the number of passengers on routes to and from Spain and the Republic of Ireland increased compared to 2020 whilst they decreased for routes to and from France and the Netherlands.
Passenger numbers on routes to and from:
- France saw an annual decrease of 28%
- the Republic of Ireland saw an annual increase of 5%, similar to domestic passenger trends
- the Netherlands saw an annual decrease of 21% driven by the first 3 months of 2020 being before the pandemic
- Spain increased 44%, this was mainly driven by April to June 2020 numbers being very low due to the pandemic when leisure passenger traffic was likely to be particularly impacted
International short sea passengers, trends by port and port group (SPAS0101)
Map 1: UK international short sea passengers by port group in 2021 and change from 2020 (SPAS0101)
In 2021, the number of international short sea passengers decreased by 22% to 5.4 million, compared to 6.9 million in 2020.
This decrease is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of travel restrictions in 2021. The West Coast port group was the only port group to report an increase in international passengers compared to 2020, an increase of 5% to 1.1 million. This was due to the increase in passengers travelling to the Republic of Ireland. Thames and Kent reported the largest decrease of 29% to 3.1 million passengers in 2021. The East and South Coast port groups also experienced decreased international passenger numbers of 24% and 11% respectively compared to 2020 (map 1).
In 2021, nearly all ports continued to see a decrease in passenger numbers compared to 2020. Dover, the port with the largest international short sea passenger numbers, decreased by 29% from 4.4 million in 2020 to 3.1 million in 2021.
Poole saw the largest decrease in 2021 of 93% (chart 3). Passenger services on routes from Poole to France were paused in 2021 so the numbers on those routes were drivers of freight only.
Milford Haven and Fishguard saw increases in their passenger numbers in 2021 of 27% and 45% respectively. Both ports only have passenger routes to the Republic of Ireland and as the Republic of Ireland is part of the Common Travel Area, many of the COVID-19 travel restrictions in 2021 did not apply. The increase in passengers from these ports may be due in part to a preference for domestic holidays or holidays within the Common Travel Area because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chart 3: UK international short sea passengers by ports and port group, percentage change in 2021 compared to 2020 (SPAS0101)
Table 1: Percentage change on 2020 for ports with at least 100 international short sea passengers in 2021 (SPAS0101)
|Port group||Port||Percentage change from 2020|
|Thames and Kent||London||-57%|
|Thames and Kent||Dover||-29%|
|West Coast||Milford Haven||27%|
|East Coast||Grimsby and Immingham||-14%|
Statistics on international short sea passengers by port group can be found in data table (SPAS0101).
Top 5 international short sea routes (SPAS0102)
Passenger numbers on most routes continued to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and saw decreases in numbers compared to 2020. The top 5 routes accounted for 83% of all international short sea passengers in 2021.
In 2021, the Dover-Calais route, historically the busiest, accounted for around 45% of the annual international short sea passenger traffic. In 2021, 2.4 million passengers travelled on this route, a 27% decline on 2020, and 72% lower than in 2019 (map 2).
The Dublin-Holyhead route overtook the Dover-Dunkirk route in 2021 to become the second largest route in terms of passenger numbers, the first time this has happened since 2005. Passenger numbers on this route were similar to volumes in 2020, this was the only route in the top 5 that did not see a decrease in passenger numbers compared to 2020.
On the third largest route, Dover-Dunkirk, passenger numbers decreased 36% to 0.7 million in 2021. The Portsmouth-Caen route decreased 9% compared to 2020 and reported similar passenger numbers as the Harwich-Hook of Holland route (0.3 million).
Some passenger routes saw increases in passenger numbers compared to 2020.
Compared to 2020, passenger numbers on the Plymouth-Santander route increased 152% and the Portsmouth-Santander route increased by 42%. This increase is due to April to June 2020 figures being particularly low on these routes and therefore seeing more recovery in 2021. This is likely to be related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on leisure passenger traffic on these routes in 2020.
The Fishguard-Rosslare route increased by 45%. The increase on this route may be due to a preference for domestic holidays or holidays within the Common Travel Area due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Map 2: Top 5 international short sea routes by number of passengers (millions) in 2021 and change from 2020 (SPAS0102)
Detailed statistics on international short sea passengers by route can be found in data table (SPAS0102).
International short sea passengers and Channel Tunnel passengers
International short sea passengers peaked in 1994 at 36.7 million, the same year the Channel Tunnel opened. Channel Tunnel passenger figures increased rapidly between 1994 and 1998 and this was followed by a few years of a slow decline. From 2010, passenger numbers gradually increased until 2019. International short sea passengers decreased between 1994 and 2019. Channel tunnel figures have been higher than international short sea passengers since 2015.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can also be seen in the Channel Tunnel passenger figures. In 2021, 5.8 million passengers travelled via the Channel Tunnel, a 30% decrease compared to 2020. In 2021, passenger numbers on international short sea routes were lower than those through the Channel Tunnel for the sixth consecutive year, and the seventh time since the Tunnel opened (chart 4).
Chart 4: International short sea passengers and Channel Tunnel passengers, 1990 to 2021 (SPAS0101)
Channel Tunnel, including Eurotunnel and Eurostar, figures are supplied to the Department for Transport by Office of Rail and Road.
International cruise and long sea passengers
Cruise passenger figures include all passengers on international cruise journeys who start and finish their cruise journey at a UK port as well as cruises between a UK port and a European or Mediterranean port. Like other sea passengers, cruise passengers are included at both departure and arrival if their journey begins and ends at a UK seaport. Transit passengers, who do not embark or disembark from a UK port, are not included in these figures.
Long sea voyage passengers are those travelling on one-way scheduled voyages to and from ports outside Europe and Mediterranean.
Cruise passenger numbers increased by 70% in 2021, though were still 92% less than in 2019 (chart 5). This increase is related to changes to Foreign Commonwealth and Development office (FCDO) advice allowing international cruises to restart from August 2021.
In 2021, the number of long sea passengers decreased by 64% compared to 2020 and was 95% less than in 2019. Before the pandemic, the number of long sea passengers between 2000 and 2019 varied greatly each year (ranging from -33% to +47% change in passengers each year), in part because operators can use these trips to reposition vessels around the world as needed (chart 5).
Chart 5: Cruise and long sea passengers, 2000 to 2021 (SPAS0101)
Passengers on international cruises
The department is currently looking into presenting other ports for international cruises in (SPAS0101) to allow further analysis of passenger numbers on international cruises. If you have any feedback on this, please email sea passenger statistics.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no cruises departing from UK ports after 23 March 2020, and this continued for the rest of the year. The only cruise passengers after this were those arriving back from cruises that had already departed. This was due to Foreign Office advice against cruise travel as well as wider government advice and requirements restricting international leisure travel. International cruises did not restart until August 2021 following changes to Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office advice announced on 28 July 2021.
Cruise passenger numbers increased by 70% to 181,000 in 2021 from 107,000 in 2020.
Of these 181,000 cruise passengers, 152,000 (84%) passed through Southampton and 1,000 (1%) through Dover.
While cruise passengers through Harwich were already declining prior to 2020, the impact of the pandemic meant that the number of cruise passengers through this port dropped to zero in 2020 and remained zero in 2021.
An additional 28,000 cruise passengers (15%) passed through ports other than Southampton and Dover.
Passenger numbers for domestic cruises can be found in the domestic sea passenger section.
Passengers on long sea voyages
Long sea figures vary greatly over time, in part because operators can use these trips to reposition vessels around the world as needed.
There were 4,000 long sea passengers in 2021, compared to 11,000 passengers in 2020, corresponding to a 64% decrease. Passengers in 2020 were before the COVID-19 pandemic. As cruises only restarted in August 2021, it is unlikely there was much need to reposition vessels.
Detailed statistics on cruise and long sea passengers by port group can be found in the data table SPAS0101.
Sea passengers on domestic routes
Inter-island: Covers routes between the mainland and UK islands, such as Isle of Skye and the Isle of Wight. It also covers internal ferry routes on lochs such as Strangford to Portaferry in Northern Ireland.
River ferries: Figures for river ferries are collected annually from the operators. Routes are generally included in this statistical release when the passenger-kilometre figure is greater than 500 passenger-kilometres. Most of the river ferry passengers are on journeys made along the River Thames. See the Technical Note for a breakdown of the routes that are included.
Major domestic routes (short sea): includes all routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
Minor domestic routes (short sea): all other short sea passenger routes including routes between Great Britain and Orkney and Shetland Islands.
Domestic cruise passenger figures include all passengers on domestic cruises in the UK (no cruise stops at foreign ports). These figures have been collected for the first time in 2021 and can be found in table SPAS0201. Large domestic cruises did not previously occur but were a feature in 2021 when they were permitted under the domestic roadmap for England. This was the first stage of the wider restart of cruise following the industry’s pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, with international cruises restarting from August 2021.
The total number of sea passengers on domestic routes comprises passengers on domestic sea crossings, domestic cruises, inter-island domestic routes and river ferries.
Passenger numbers on most domestic routes started to recover from the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and saw an increase in numbers compared to 2020, though passenger numbers on most routes remained below that in 2019. The total number of sea passengers on domestic routes in 2021 saw an increase of 44% to 29.8 million, compared to 20.6 million in 2020, but was still 29% less than in 2019. The increase compared to 2020 may be related to preferences for domestic holidays in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of this total, 13.3 million (45%) were river ferry passengers and another 13.3 million were inter-island passengers. The remaining 3.2 million (11%) were domestic sea crossings and domestic cruises. 82% of passengers on domestic sea crossings travelled on major domestic routes, with the remaining 18% of passengers travelling on minor domestic routes. These proportions are broadly consistent with previous years.
The number of passengers undertaking domestic sea crossings was stable (-2% to +3% change in passengers each year) from 2010 to 2019 with a large reduction from 3.5 million passengers in 2019 to 1.5 million in 2020 and increasing in 2021 to 2.8 million (+90%) (chart 6).
In May 2021, UK domestic cruises were allowed to operate as part of the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and in 2021 there were 462,000 domestic cruise passengers.
Chart 6: UK domestic sea passengers by type of route, 2010 to 2021 (SPAS0201)
Passengers on river ferries
Passenger numbers on river ferries increased by 32%, to 13.3 million passengers in 2021 from 10.1 million passengers in 2020. This is still 31% less than the numbers in 2019.
Passengers on inter-island domestic routes
The number of passengers on inter-island journeys remained stable (-2% to +4% change in passengers each year) from 2010 to 2019 but saw a large decrease from 19.3 million passengers in 2019 to 9.1 million in 2020 before seeing an increase in 2021 to 13.3 million (+46%).
There were 5.8 million passengers between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in 2021, an increase of 31% compared to 2020.
Passengers on Scottish inter-island routes increased to 6.3 million in 2021 from 3.8 million in 2020, an increase of 64%. See the Transport Scotland Water Transport statistics for further information, including figures for individual routes.
Passengers on all other inter-island routes increased to 1.1 million in 2021 from 798,000 in 2020, an increase of 46%.
Trends for major domestic routes (short sea)
Map 3: Top 5 UK major domestic short sea routes in 2021 by number of passengers (millions) and change from 2020 (SPAS0201)
Note on 2021 domestic short sea traffic to the Isle of Man
From 28 June 2021, following the closure of borders to passenger traffic in March 2020, the Isle of Man allowed entrance without restrictions to those from the UK, Ireland or the Channel Islands provided they were fully vaccinated for at least 2 weeks.
In 2021, there was an increase in passenger numbers of 90% (compared to 2020) to 2.8 million passengers travelling on domestic short sea routes. This is still 21% below 2019 numbers.
Domestic sea crossings from Great Britain to Northern Ireland saw a 69% increase compared to 2020. Cairnryan-Belfast is consistently the busiest domestic short sea route. In 2021, this route saw 1.0 million passengers, an increase of 64% on 2020. Cairnryan-Larne saw a 63% increase from 2020 to 0.4 million passengers.
Poole-Jersey/Guernsey remained in the top 5 with 115,000 passengers travelling in 2021, an increase of 212% compared to 2020. Operators reported that this increase is due to the opening of travel following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions as well as reduced hesitancy to travel. Passenger numbers on this route were still 33% below those in 2019.
Liverpool-Belfast went from 241,000 passengers in 2020 to 459,000 in 2021, an increase of 90% and putting it above passenger numbers reported from 2010 to 2019. Operators reported that this increase may be related to an increase in capacity on this route as well as passengers switching from the Holyhead-Dublin international route.
Heysham-Douglas also saw an increase compared to 2020 of 131%, reporting 143,000 passengers, though this is 47% below 2019 levels (map 3, chart 7).
Chart 7: Top 5 busiest major domestic sea crossing routes, 2010 to 2021 (SPAS0201)
Detailed statistics on domestic sea passengers can be found in data table SPAS0201.
Annex: timeline of coronavirus events affecting sea travel
The following table presents a timeline of COVID-19 events affecting sea travel since March 2020.
|Coronavirus Events Affecting Sea Travel||Date of Introduction||Month of Introduction|
|Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all non-essential international travel||17/03/2020||March|
|UK lockdown applied||23/03/2020||March|
|Persons travelling to the UK from outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Ireland and Crown Dependencies) required to self-isolate for 14 days||08/06/2020||June|
|Travel corridors introduced, allowing travel into the UK from countries on an exempt list without the need to self-isolate. France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, which usually make up the majority of ‘Other EU’ short sea passenger volumes, were originally included in the exempt list.||10/07/2020||July|
|Spain removed from exempt list (i.e. no longer part of travel corridors and self-isolation required) (UK)||26/07/2020||July|
|Belgium removed from exempt list (England)||03/08/2020||August|
|Belgium removed from exempt list (Wales)||06/08/2020||August|
|Belgium removed from exempt list (Scotland & Northern Ireland)||08/08/2020||August|
|France and Netherlands removed from exempt list (UK)||15/08/2020||August|
|Denmark removed from exempt list (UK)||26/09/2020||September|
|Denmark added to exempt list (UK)||25/10/2020||October|
|England lockdown applied||05/11/2020||November|
|Denmark removed from exempt list (UK)||06/11/2020||November|
|England lockdown removed||02/12/2020||December|
|Self-isolation period on arrival changed from 14 days to 10 days (Wales)||10/12/2020||December|
|Self-isolation period on arrival changed from 14 days to 10 days (UK)||14/12/2020||December|
|Test to release, to shorten the self-isolation period for international arrivals, was introduced||15/12/2020||December|
|Varying Christmas travel guidelines across the UK||25/12/2020||December|
|England and Scotland lockdown applied||05/01/2021||January|
|Pre-departure testing requirements introduced for all inbound international passengers to England||15/01/2021||January|
|All travel corridors suspended (Scotland)||15/01/2021||January|
|Pre-departure testing requirements introduced for all inbound international passengers to Scotland and Wales||18/01/2021||January|
|All travel corridors suspended (England, Wales & Northern Ireland)||18/01/2021||January|
|Pre-departure testing requirements introduced for all inbound international passengers to Northern Ireland||21/01/2021||January|
|All inbound international passengers arriving from red list countries required to quarantine in managed quarantine facilities. All inbound international passengers required to take 2 mandatory COVID-19 tests, on day 2 and 8 of their 10-day quarantine (England, Wales & Northern Ireland)||15/02/2021||February|
|All inbound international passengers required to quarantine in managed quarantine facilities. All inbound international passengers required to take 2 mandatory COVID-19 tests, on day 2 and 8 of their 10-day quarantine (Scotland)||15/02/2021||February|
|Introduction of legislation where individuals can be fined for travelling abroad without good reason. Travellers obligated to complete a Travel Declaration Form prior to leaving the UK (England)||29/03/2021||March|
|Introduction of traffic light system for international travel. Passengers arriving from green list countries not required to quarantine. Passengers arriving from amber list countries required to quarantine for 10 days unless utilising the Test to Release scheme. Passengers arriving from red list countries required to follow rules introduced in February 2021 (England, Wales & Scotland)||17/05/2021||May|
|Introduction of traffic light system for international travel. Passengers arriving from green list countries not required to quarantine. Passengers arriving from amber list countries required to quarantine for 10 days unless utilising the Test to Release scheme. Passengers arriving from red list countries required to follow rules introduced in February 2021 (Northern Ireland)||24/05/2021||May|
|Passengers arriving from amber list countries and territories who are fully vaccinated in the UK no longer required to isolate for 10 days on arrival. These passengers must complete a mandatory COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after their arrival. France is not included in this exemption (UK)||19/07/2021||July|
|Passengers arriving from amber list countries and territories who are fully vaccinated in Europe and US residents fully vaccinated in the US no longer required to self isolate for 10 days on arrival. These passengers must complete a mandatory COVID-19 test on or before day 2 after their arrival. France is not included in the exemption.||02/08/2021||August|
|Passengers arriving from France no longer required to quarantine if fully vaccinated in the UK, Europe or the US. Norway and other European countries added to the Government’s Green list for travel.||08/08/2021||August|
|A new system of travel with countries identified as on “red list” and “rest of world” was implemented from 4th October 2021.||04/10/2021||October|
|Fully vaccinated travellers returning to England from “rest of world” countries (i.e. non “red list” countries) can replace day 2 PCR tests with lateral flow tests from 24th October.||24/10/2021||October|
|In response to the omicron variant, fully vaccinated travellers returning to England from “rest of world” countries (i.e. non “red list” countries) must self-isolate and take a PCR test before the end of day 2 after they arrive in England from 30th November. They may leave self isolation if their PCR result is negative.||30/11/2021||November|
|All people aged 12 years and over must also take a PCR or lateral flow test before they travel to England from abroad from the 7th December. Similar rules also came in for travel to the rest of the UK.||07/12/2021||December|
|In response to the omicron variant being widespread in the UK, all but essential travel from the UK to France was banned by the French Government from the 20th December.||20/12/2021||December|
|People who qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England can end self-isolation after 7 days with 2 negative lateral flow tests from the 24th December. Similar easings were applied in the rest of the UK.||24/12/2021||December|
These sea passenger statistics do not provide information about the individuals travelling through UK ports. Additional information on the origin of passengers is available from the ONS International Passenger Survey, monthly figures.
The ONS International Passenger Survey publish overseas residents’ visits to the UK by month with a breakdown of geographical areas (for example, EU15 including all countries that joined the EU prior to 2004), as well as information on UK residents visits abroad and where their destination is, again segmented using the same geographical areas. This survey also produces a table on the earnings in the UK and expenditure abroad.
The International Passenger Survey was resumed in January 2021 after being suspended in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strengths and weaknesses of the data
The data for international and domestic short sea passengers is collected from ferry operators and is validated on a monthly basis. At the end of the reference year, the annual data is then validated for a final time for this publication. The proportional allocation of passengers between some routes is occasionally estimated.
Validation processes focus on comparing reference periods with the same period in the previous year, to allow for seasonal differences. Anomalies are followed up with the operators.
Passengers are counted in both directions. It is not possible to distinguish passengers travelling by foot from those in vehicles or those travelling as the driver of a goods vehicle. Data on the number of vehicles travelling through sea ports can be found in the port freight statistics series.
Data collection is limited to vessels over 100 gross tonnes and so does not include services operated by small boats.
International figures include passengers on routes beginning or ending in Great Britain or Northern Ireland. Routes with foreign countries beginning or ending in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man are not included.
Some passengers travel between Great Britain and St Malo in France by going to the Channel Islands on one vessel and then transferring to another. From 2016 onwards, these passenger numbers are attributed to the domestic route with the Channel Islands rather than the direct international route. Please see the sea passengers notes and guidance for more details.
In 2018, the department carried out a review of the content of the annual sea passenger statistics, including the data tables published as part of this release.
Following a consultation with users, the decision was made to discontinue a number of the previously published data tables where there was little user interest or the information included was already covered in other tables.
Please refer to the User Feedback Summary for further information, including a list of retained and discontinued tables.
We would welcome any feedback on these statistics by email. We will attempt to address any comments in a subsequent release.
The data tables for sea passenger statistics are available.
Provisional summary totals for international sea passenger traffic are released monthly in SPAS0107.
Full guidance on the methods used in the publication of these releases, and the quality of the data, and known users and uses of the statistics are available.
To explore the data further, go to the interactive maritime dashboard. This includes sea passenger statistics by port and destination, as well as maritime freight statistics.
The sea passenger statistics are National Statistics. This means they are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure they meet customer needs.
These statistics were designated as National Statistics in February 2013.
Details of ministers and officials who receive pre-release access to these statistics up to 24 hours before release are available.
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