Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group said its group revenue for the first four months of 2021 came to €89.3m, an increase of 0.4% compared with last year and a 12.7% decrease on 2019.

In a trading update, ICG said that total revenues in its ferries division fell by 9.4% to €37.1m.

This was mainly due to the continued restrictions on non-essential passenger travel imposed by governments across Europe in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it said the drop was partially offset by an increase in freight revenues. Total freight revenues to May 8 increased by 5.2% over the same time last year and decreased by 1% versus the same time in 2019.

For the year to 8 May, Irish Ferries carried 15,900 cars, a decrease of 62.5% on the previous year.

Freight carryings were 83,500 RoRo units, a decrease of 18.9% compared with 2020.

But ICG said its performance since its last trading update up to 6 March shows an improving trend, with car carryings and RoRo freight down 29.8% and 5.3% respectively on the same time in 2020.

It said the impact of reduced freight carryings has been offset by higher revenue yields as more of its customers availed of its direct services to the Continent.

ICG said that total revenues for the first four months of 2021 in its Container and Terminal division rose by 11.9% to €56.4m on the back of greater capacity and higher volumes.

For the year to May 8, container freight volumes shipped were up 11.4% on the previous year at 125,000 teu (twenty foot equivalent units) due to increased load factors and additional capacity.

Units handled at its terminals in Dublin and Belfast increased 11.3% year on year to 115,700 lifts.

ICG noted that the improvement in volumes compared to the same time last year can also be attributed partly to the initial disruption caused by Covid-19 in March/April 2020.

In March, Irish Ferries said it was planning to start a new ferry service on the Dover-Calais route this summer.

ICG said it welcomed the recent comments from the Government about the reintroduction of unrestricted travel in the Common Travel Area between Ireland and UK.

"ICG would urge the Irish Government to prioritise this against the background of low Covid-19 infection rates and increasing vaccination levels," the company said in today's trading statement.

"It should be noted that the UK Government during this pandemic has never imposed requirements for testing or quarantine for people travelling from anywhere in Ireland to Britain. Urgent clarity is needed regarding dates so that ICG can ensure it is ready from an operational perspective," it added.

Shares in the company moved higher in Dublin trade today.