At P&O Ferries Hull to Rotterdam, for all passengers, including foot passengers, check in closes 90 minutes prior to departure.

On Stena Line ferries between Harwich and Hoek van Holland, all passengers must check in no later than 45 minutes prior to departure.

My experience with foot passengers on this kind of ferries is that the foot passenger terminal is deserted, as most passengers travel with a vehicle. This was true for Nynäshamn–Gdańsk and for Hoek van Holland–Harwich. Then why do they close the checkin 90 or even 45 minutes before departure? There should be plenty of time for foot passengers to get on board when arriving 30 or 20 minutes before.

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    I speculate, but I think this is a leftover from a long bygone era. And, because the number of foot passengers is so small, there's no real pressure to change this much. That said, I seem to recall that the ferries between the UK and Ireland are much more lenient with their checkin/boarding times.
    – MastaBaba
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 2:27
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    The ferries I used have not enforced that ever - I think the point is if you arrive at that early time, you will make the ferry, even if there are long lines. After that, you are on your own to have a wait line or not.
    – Aganju
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 3:46
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    Is it perhaps a terminal where they have to bus foot passengers onto the ferry, rather than letting them walk?
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 5:33
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    @J.Constantine There's only one ferry per night, so that doesn't apply in this case.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 11:18
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    I took a ferry in Barcelona after the departure time. The check-in counter officer said me to run to the ferry, with a note to the onboard person to check me in on board. I was pretty lucky that time, but I don't think there are technical reasons for this kind of restriction.
    – AKS
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 8:54

2 Answers 2


At many ports, there is no foot bridge, and foot passengers are ferried on-board using a shuttle bus. This bus needs to enter and leave the ferry while the car deck is still mostly empty. After that, ferry staff still need another hour or so to complete the boarding (after check-in) of all the cars and lorries, which may be quite a puzzle when the ferry is busy. During this period, ferry staff that was previously helping passengers with checkin and boarding may be required for other duties. For the same reason, it may take a while before passengers can leave a ferry after arrival; when I arrived at Belfast, foot passengers could only leave one hour after the first lorries drove off. The above reasoning applies equally if ferry staff have to block traffic in order for foot passengers to safely walk on/off the ferry over the vehicle ramp.

Some of the above was explained to me when I missed a night ferry due to delayed trains, and I asked Stena Line staff why late passengers cannot board a ferry while it's still in port and motorists are still boarding. This was at a port which (then) did not have a passenger foot bridge.


There are some possible reasons for this, though the exact logic applied is likely different for each ferry line.

1) Consistency in policy, everyone has the same rules for checking in. That way motorists can't complain about having the arrive an hour before foot passengers (because, yes, some will).

2) Convenience with paperwork, if everyone is checked in by a set time then the paperwork required for departure can be started and filed with the proper people. With most ferries, the crew members have multiple things to do during loading, so efficiency is key to an on-time departure.

3) Immigration / Customs / Port authorities may require departure paperwork to be submitted XX minutes ahead of sailing, hence resulting in a check in time = XX + paperwork creation time.

  • 1) Doesn't fit. For other routes, the same ferry operator has different check-in times for cars and foot passengers. 2/3) Don't fit. For the other (international) routes, the check-in times are much shorter. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 18:13
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo - procedures are different for different ports and countries you can't use A as a definition for B.
    – user13044
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 1:07
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    I wonder if they have this rule so people spend more time in on-board shops and restaurants.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 11:15
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    As you will be on the ferrry from before dinner to after breakfast, and the shop does not open till the ferry is well out of the harbour, I doubt it is to get people to spend in the shop. I do not remember the actual times of the restaurants but as far as I remember, the standard ticket includese an 'all you can eat' dinner. So that will stop most people from spending in the restaurants. I can understand that they do open the boarding early, I can also not understand that they close it so early.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 16:18

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