Irish Continental Group has reported lower revenues and profits for 2018 on the back of disruption to its ferry schedules and higher fuel costs.

Revenues at ICG, which owns Irish Ferries, slipped by 1.5% to €330.2m from €335.1m in 2017 while EBITDA fell by 15.6% to €68.4m from €89m

The company's adjusted earnings per share sank over 31% to 30.4 cent in 2018 from 44.1 cent the previous year, while its operating profits slumped by 32.6% to €60m from €89m.

Its fuel costs during the year increased by 19.6% to €48.2m.

During the year Irish Ferries encountered "technical difficulties" with its Ulysses ferry, while it also saw the late delivery of its new WB Yeats ferry. This ferry had been scheduled to start sailing last summer but only entered service in January of this year.

Operating initially on the Dublin-Holyhead route, it is due to switch to the Dublin-Cherbourg route in March.

The company's chairman John B McGuckian said that 2018 was a challenging year operationally for the company.

"Schedule disruptions due to technical issues on our vessel Ulysses and the late delivery of the WB Yeats combined to lower our profit performance over the prior year," he noted.

However, the chairman said that the markets in which the company operates remained robust and its long term strategic plans for the future of its fleet remains intact, progressing well with the delivery of the WB Yeats.

He also that while the company is "mindful" of the uncertainty created by Brexit, trading in the year to date is "encouraging".

ICG operates through two divisions - the ferries division and RoRo freight services.

Revenues at its ferries division, which includes Irish Ferries, fell by 7.5% to €196.2m while operating profits slumped 38.4% to €47.9m on the back of higher fuel costs and the late delivery of the WB Yeats.

The division generated a profit on the sale of the Jonathan Swift ferry of €13.7m during the year.

ICG said the overall car market to and from Ireland fell by about 2% to 790,600 cars last year, while the all-island market - which includes routes to Northern Ireland - fell  by 1.8%.

Irish Ferries' car carryings during the year fell by 7.4% to 392,700 cars from 424,000 cars in 2017.

Its passenger numbers were also lower, falling by 8.9% to 1.502 million from 1.650 million. 

It noted that in the first half of 2018, Irish Ferries passenger volumes were down 2.9%, while they slumped by 13.3% in the second half of the year.

It said this was due to the problems with Ulysses and the "strategic operational decision" not to operate the fastcraft Dublin Swift vessel over the winter months.

"This decision was made with a view to optimise capacity while the WB Yeats is operating on this route to mid-March. This resulted in a combined reduction of 10.8% in the second half of 2018 versus the prior year," ICG said.  

Meanwhile the RoRo freight market between Ireland, the UK and France continued to  grow on the back of the strengthening Irish economy, with the total number of trucks and trailers up by 3.4% to over 1 million units. 

But Irish Ferries' carryings fell by 1.3% to 283,700 freight units with volumes up by 3.2% in the first half and falling by 5.6% in the second half.