Irish Continental Group has reported higher revenues for the six months to the end of June but a drop in earnings before interest and tax as the Covid-19 pandemic continued to create an "exceptionally challenging" trading environment for the company.

ICG, which owns Irish Ferries, said its revenues rose by 8.3% to €141.6m, while EBIT generated was a loss of €10.3m, €0.8m worse than the same time last year.

The company reported a loss before tax of €12.2m compared to a loss before tax of €11.2m last year.

ICG said that travel restrictions in place in the first half of the year materially reduced its passenger business.

But it added that it has maintained services on all of its shipping routes, keeping critical logistical links to the island of Ireland.

"These services have facilitated not only key logistical links to Britain and the European Union, but have facilitated passenger travel for essential purposes allowing for the movement of critical staff and the repatriation of citizens," ICG said.

ICG welcomed the introduction of the EU Digital Covid Certificate and the easing of restrictions on non-essential travel, but said the timing of its introduction limited the benefits for the summer season..

On Brexit, ICG said it was concerned at the lack of implementation of appropriate checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from Britain, which are required under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"To the extent that goods are destined for the Republic of Ireland, this is causing a distortion in the level playing field as goods that arrive directly into the Republic of Ireland ports from Britain are being checked on arrival," it added.

ICG said that total passenger numbers on Irish Ferries fell by 43.2% to 132,800 in the first half of the year compared to the same time last year.

Total cars carried on its ferries amounted to 29,800, down 47.3% on the same time in 2020.

ICG said the declines reflected a full six month period of travel restrictions, in comparison with HY 2020, where restrictions on non-essential travel were imposed from mid-March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The effects of these restrictions were accentuated by the Irish government not fully reciprocating the Common Travel Area protocols between the Ireland and the UK, whereby throughout HY 2021 the Republic of Ireland continued to impose restrictions on travellers arriving from Britain, whereas such restrictions were not operated by the UK on travellers arriving from the Republic of Ireland," ICG noted.

Meanwhile, freight carryings in the first half of 2021 were 126,700 units, a decrease of 15.2% over HY 2020, while freight revenues increased 7.8%.

ICG said the increase in revenues reflected a greater share of carryings on its higher yielding direct Ireland France services against the carrying reductions on the Ireland UK services.

Revenue in ICG's Container and Terminal division rose by 16.4% to €85.2m, while EBITDA increased to €13.3m from €8.9m.

Total containers shipped by shipping line Eucon were up 13.5% at 176,700 teu (2020: 155,700 teu).

In response to increased demand as supply chains restocked following Covid-19 disruptions, ICG increased its core fleet to six vessels in January 2021 having off-hired a vessel in April 2020.

Containers handled at its container terminals in Dublin and Belfast rose 17.4% to 165,500 lifts from 141,000 lifts in 2020.

Dublin Ferryport Terminals' activity was up 16.8% and activity at Belfast Container Terminal was up 18.5%.

ICG said that a new service on the Dover-Calais route was launched on June 29, with the introduction of the Isle of Inishmore on the route.

Shares in the company were lower in Dublin trade today.