Ferry to Madeira: whatever happened to it?

Ferry to Madeira: whatever happened to it?

A ferry to Madeira could be good in these days of covid-19. All kinds of rules and regulations make air travel less pleasant. And maybe, they make you feel less safe than you would like. Unsurprisingly, many have sent me questions about the ferry to the mainland. True enough, a ferry to the mainland would make it possible to use your own car to travel to Madeira.

You could travel without being packed into an aircraft where you depend on the reliability of the airline’s air filters. Travelling by sea, in the open air at times, would give travellers a lot more room to keep the social distance. So yes, travelling by ferry could be a lot more pleasant. And the Madeiran government keeps promising a ferry to the people. But there are interests of private parties that seemingly are more important to the government than the people of Madeira. The same people that elects them and pays them. Here is a horrible story about broken promises and corruption..

getting our stuff to Madeira: not many options

When we first started to contemplate spending our golden years in Madeira, we started looking for all the possible ways to get our stuff transported. We had been living aboard our sailing yacht Heerenleed for ten years already. So, the furniture we wanted to keep had been in storage for all that time.

The most logical thing to do seemed to be, to pack it all into a sea container and have the lot shipped. That was when we found out there were not many companies to choose from when it came to getting our car to the island. We had a beautiful Pininfarina-designed Peugeot 306 cabriolet which we absolutely wanted to take with us. For this, we could choose from one single company that would take it. It was called Auto Expresso.

We asked for a price (it was not on display on their website) and we were quoted around 500€. That was, obviously, one way. And it did not include the transfer of the car from the ship across the port area in Madeira upon arrival. It turned out they wanted 150 € for that as well. A lot of money for just driving the car 500 metres across the customs area. Also, the price did not include the driver who was supposed to travel by plane.

A ferry to Madeira after over 30 years?

We decided to wait for a while, as there were rumours a ferry was going to run in 2008. After a lot of research and trying to get a decent number of options we finally received the excellent news that indeed, a ferry was going to run between Portimão in the South Algarve to Funchal. It was the extension of the overnight ferry that already ran between the Canary Islands and Funchal, and Naviera Armas, the shipping company that ran it decided to simply extend the line to Portimão and lo and behold: the first passenger ferry since 30+ years was a fact.

time to book the boat

Time to book our beautiful convertible on the first available ferry early June. We loaded her up with every scrap of glass- and crystalware we possessed, plus all the earthenware, silver and porcelain, opened the linen top and put the hardtop on and off Noud went. Of course, it was an extremely long drive to Portimão from the Netherlands, but he went with some time to spare because we could not afford to miss it. But all went well, and after a crossing of some 22 hours, he could drive the car off the ferry in Funchal.

The officials did not know what hit them, and, as officials do, tried everything to get a grip on all these foreign cars entering their thus far blissfully isolated little island. Completely oblivious of the modern electronic possibilities someone in his wisdom thought it an excellent idea to put an old kitchen table near the roll-off ramp, install a very important looking man behind it who had to write down all the license plates of the cars that came off the ferry. When Noud let me know over the Phone we could not help but snicker about such outdated way of displaying territorial rights. Unfortunately, he had no time to make a picture of it.

Anyway, everything arrived in one piece, except for one earthenware bowl. Noud continued to the house we had rented for the time our own house was being renovated.

our beautiful cabriolet via ferry to Madeira
In spite of what the Sousas say, the ferry to Madeira is very popular

Later that summer, in August, Noud flew back to the Netherlands, where we rented the largest Ford Transit we could lay our hands-on. We booked a return ticket for it on the Armas ferry. We carefully loaded it up with all our stuff, bought some more when we had some space left, and off Noud went again. It turned out he was allowed to drive the Transit with his normal license, but not when it was fully loaded. He almost found out the hard way that driving such a heavily loaded van, when he tried to take a roundabout a little too fast. It went well, but only just.

electronic gulls

Fortunately he arrived in Portimao on time, the evening before the ferry left and spent the night in the van enjoying the screeches of the electronic seagulls that were supposed to tell the real ones not to use the parking lot as a public loo. 

The crossing was uneventful, the unloading of the van – luckily with the help of friends – a bit less uneventful if heavy work. A week later, he came back on the ferry and we returned the van. We calculated that the whole operation, including van hire, toll roads, hotels, meals, fuel and the ferry ticket, was about 2500€. An excellent result, if we compared it with the 12000€ that was quoted by several shipping agents.

Over the rest of 2008 and in the time that followed Noud did several trips on the ferry, helping moving cars of friends and getting some more furniture from the Netherlands – I was still working and had to stay in the Netherlands – until in January 2012 the ferry came to a screeching halt.

Unfair competition

The problems started when the Portuguese Shipowners Association accused Naviera Armas of unfair competition. As a ferry for passengers and roll-on-roll-off freight, the complaint was that they allowed the transport of just semi-trailers, without the corresponding lorry. Subsequently, the Association filed a complaint for unfair competition. Itwas filed with the administrative court of Lisbon. The court then ordered Armas as well as the Funchal Harbour Operator APRAM to keep the lorries attached to the semi-trailers. Seeing that the Grupo Sousa was – and is – the monopolist for transport to and from Madeira, it is no rocket science to guess where the compaint came from.

It is more probable that they did not like that Armas charged 170 (178 in the last couple of years) for a normal car, including its driver. The Sousas wanted €500. Plus €150 to cross the freeport grounds. And that excluded the driver who was forced to take a plane. Also, sending freight was still cheaper on the Armas ferry than on the Grupo Sousa’s ships. And tha inspite of the fact that Armas was forced to keep the lorries attached to the semi-trailers, reducing the payload with 25%. Clearly, the Sousas were desperate to keep their (illegal) monopoly for all transport to and from the island.

second crossing?

Even with all the deliberate harassment by the Madeiran officials they applied for a second time slot in the harbour. This would allow them to do two crossings a week instead of one. But the then responsible minister of transport Mrs. Conceição Estudante imposed even more limitations to freight transport. Clearly her actions were not in the interest of the Madeiran people, but in the interest of the Grupo Sousa. A clearer example of the incestuous political liaisons in Madeira will be difficult to find.

We will never know what incentives she enjoyed, but rest assured she had something to gain. When it became clear that the Madeiran politics had their mind set on terminating the Armas connection, in favour of an illegal monopoly for the Grupo Sousa, they knew that there was no chance of being treated fairly. So Armas told the Madeira government they could shove the ferry up their place where the sun doesn’t shine. They were terminating the line without notice.

Black day for Madeira

It wa a black day for Madeira when they lost the sea connection to the mainland. Apart from losing a sea-connection, Madeira also lost its only Madeira based supermarket chain Sá. That was a direct result, because Sá could not afford the high transport prices charged by the Grupo Sousa who now had their precious monopoly back. Sá went bust, the island cried murder but the government did nothing.

One would wonder why a twenty-first-century European region has a government that is obviously being told what to do by a large company. The answer to that is simple. The Grupo Sousa has been financing the PSD-M, the Madeiran So-called social democrats, since decades. Everyone knows, and no-one dares to stop voting fort hem. Why is that? Simple. Most families have someone working for some company that belongs to the octopus called Grupo Sousa. And they are not convinced their opinion remains their secret. In other words: fear is what moves them. Fear for people they think are ‘their betters’. Like nothing has changed since the 1974 revolution when dictator Salazar was kicked out.

facebook group

Fortunately, not everyone could be shut up effectively by playing the fear card. There was a small Facebook Group that opposed the loss of the ferry. They started lobbying to get it back. A lot of discussions were heard, political parties said their piece. But really, – though not a single one can be trusted. This is, after all the incestuous Madeiran politics and they also may depend on hand-outs by the Sousas. An altercation I had over Facebook with a chosen member of the European Parliament I had is a good illustration of the contempt shown to the electorate by Madeiran politicians).

But under the pressure of some public opinion makers and exposing some clear examples of corruption or at least nepotism, the regional government announced in august 2017 there would be a public tender for a new ferry line to the mainland. Much to the annoyment of the pressure groups, the ferry was only meant to sail during the summer months.

The government and the Grupo Sousa had gone out of their way to try and convince the public that a ferry could never be cost-effective. They said that large sums of public money were needed to operate such a ferry. All the former obstacles remained in place, and it is no wonder that no party offered itself. Of course, Armas has seriously been considering to enter the tender. Only, in the meantime the harbour dues had become excessive.

In the same period, we saw that cruise ships started to take Funchal off their schedules. Apparently, not just Armas would suffer ridiculous harbour dues. The only company not having this problem is the Porto Santo line. This is the ferry between Madeira and the smaller sister island of Porto Santo. If this surprises you, well, it shouldn’t. This company is owned by non other than the monopolist Grupo Sousa who is exempt from habour dues.

Another ferry to Madeira. This one is from Porto Santo, and as it is Sousa owned, does not pay harbour fees

Monopoly again

Then, the regional government granted a subvention of 9 million Euros. That would be for a concession of three years. One company stood up. Clearly, to snatch the 9 million for only a handful of return trips between Funchal and the mainland. Nobody was surprised that it was – again – the Grupo Sousa. The contract was won by a puppet company especially established for this purpose. But let me tell you a secret. Nobody knew this at the time. But just before the Grupo Sousa entered the tender, the harbour dues for the ferry to the mainland was secretly reduced. Another favour to the Sousas.

They did not have a roll-on-roll-off ferry, so they chartered one. And lo and behold: it was none other than Naviera Armas who was chartered to do this ferry. Anyone can understand that running a ferry gets more expensive if more parties want to make money out of it. We could well have done without the Sousas sucking money out of this public service. And Armas would certainly have entered the tender if the reduction of the harbour dues would have been publicly announced. The way it should have been in the first place.

Once the taxpayers’ millions cashed, the Grupo Sousa kept trying to prove that the line could not be cost-effective. To discourage possible bookings, no information about fares and sailing times was available up to two weeks before the first ferry was scheduled. They did everything they could to make it impossible to book a trip. The web site was crap, with pages lacking necessary information. The staff at the booking office was rude and uninformed, you name it, they tried it.

But it did not work. After the first ferry that was far from fully booked, bookings picked up. Because a ferry is really something that many people living in Madeira want. It enables them to take a holiday to the mainland. They can go and visit their family and take their own car. No multiple airline tickets and expensive car rentals. Also, it allows them to buy things that are less expensive on the mainland and take them back with them. We also saw it brought people from the mainland or even from abroad. Many people from Spain used the ferry to enjoy a stopover in Madeira on their way to the Canaries.

So after all, it was profitable, for Armas. It woul have been, because otherwise, they would not have operated the line. It was profitable for the Sousas, because they got their 9 million euros for not doing much else than the paid obstruction of a public transport service.

no third season

Finally, after two years of unsuccessfully trying to torpedo the much-appreciated sea link between Funchal and the Portuguese mainland, the third season came. The usual obstructions were already in place long before the ferry’s season had started. The Grupo Sousa was not at all willing to do the third season. In November 2019 they already announced that the ferry was not profitable. They wanted to discontinue it and they finally dumped it in 2020.

Nobody knows what happened to the 3 million Euros subsidy for this year. But I think I am not alone in my fear that they have been silently pocketed by the Sousas with the – silent again – permission of their puppets that call themselves the government. They must have been happy that the covid-19 pandemic created other worries to distract from this scandalous corruption

Have a look at the video of the arrival of the first ferry after the interruption. You can see that in spite of the obstructions meant to hamper bookings, the ferry had plenty of vehicles and passengers that disembarked in Funchal

Don’t think that the fight to get a decent ferry back is over. Because it isn’t. Many people keep putting a lot of energy into exposing the nepotism or corruption, an ongoing thing in Madeira. Madeira may not be a republic. But there are plenty of bananas. And there seems to be a relation between the fruit and corruption. And don’t think for a minute that the people who have spoken up so far can be silenced. When this nasty covid-19 virus stops being the all-consuming item in politics and news, the cause will be picked up with renewed energy.

A final word about the regional government of Madeira. In these difficult months, they received a lot of praise. Deserved, as hey dealt with the outbreak of the pandemic so well. I will be the last one to deny that adequate measures have been taken at the right time. Although I have a lot of doubt where their wisdom came from. I am much more inclined to give the credit to the health authorities at IASaúde. But at least they have recognised good advice when it was brought to them. So yes, every decision that was taken and every measure that was imposed where the containment of the virus in the Madeiran archipelago is concerned was well done. But it will not cause me to forgive them the corruption and nepotism that has kept Madeira and its lovely people in a stranglehold for far too long.

Would you like to join us in our ongoing struggle to make the Madeiran politicians finally keep their promises to the Madeiran people? And make them stop favouring families like the wealthy Sousas and others? Then, you can join us in one (or both) of the Facebook groups here and here.


By Peter Groen

Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1949. He has a history in PR and copywriting. Now, part time resident of the Island of Madeira of over 10 years, he writes about Madeira, its culture, its overwhelming nature, its food and drink, and about everything concerning travel to and on this beautiful island.


  1. There is no pandemic and has never been. you have not researched the subject as you should have done and now running with misinformation. you trust the authorities/their corrupted media outlets that you are trying to criticize here. it’s a pity that you don’t see the whole picture. the covid, which is kind of mild flu, was brought to you by the same people (read maffia) that are claming want to protect you. I would never let them to protect me, I know they are criminals, big time. corruption is on much much higher level that you are describing in this article. as I see it nowadays, maffia aka elites is everywhere. rich elites/families against the rest. there are families like grupo Sousa in every country and they have been ruling for centuries like oppressors of ordinary people

    1. Sorry, Ann, but you and I have very different views on a number of things. There damned well was a pandemic, and the Alpha and Beta variants were bloody deadly and nothing like a mild flue. Only the later Omicron variants were indeed mild. But to state that I did not research the topic enough just because you disagree with me is rich, considering your apparently dogmatic view on things. On top of everything, your remarks are for 90% off-topic.

  2. A lot of attention.
    Just as there is an air mobility allowance, there should also be a maritime mobility allowance.
    Decree Law 134/2015 of the Assembly of the Republic, which, unfortunately the Government of the Republic does not comply, that is, it never published the ORDINANCE (PORTARIA) regulating the maritime mobility allowance.
    If there is this legitimate subsidy for passengers residing in Madeira, it will certainly favour ferry travel between Madeira and the Mainland (Portugal).

  3. Completely agree. And it casts a dark shadow on this island. Not mentioning the tax haven/free trade scheme sold by local politics and encouraged by Brussels. Vicious stuff! I’m not tempted to travel there anytime soon…

  4. So if Funchal port is a “Passenger” port, how does the Porto Santo ferry get away with carrying freight?

    1. Easy. The Porto Santo line is owned by monopolist Grupo Sousa. They get away with anything they want. They don’t even pay Harbour fees. How corrupt can you get?

      1. Peter

        Sauce for the goose, in this case is not sauce for the gander.

        We must not give up. This island needs this ferry.

        But what?

        1. My weapon is my sharp pen, if need be dipped in vitriol. So that’s what I wield. Everybody contributes as best they can and uses what they are best at for th this cause.

          1. hi Peter
            please can i have a update on the ferry situation. Madeira Web says it’s starting up again but the site to book is unavailable

            1. I have not heard that news, Timothy, I will try and find out. Frankly, with the PSD still in power – the Party that is financed by the transport monopolist Grupo Sousa – I think it is highly unlikely. Can you tell me where exactly you read that? Preferably with a link?

  5. Peter nice article. thanks.
    Thank you for summarize. I was not aware of this page. Just to congratulate for expositing this problematic situation with all the facts.

    1. Thank you Carlos. This is an ongoing problem that seems to take forever to be solved. As a part-time immigrant, I feel I should not just enjoy the nice things Madeira has to offer, but I should also do whatever I can for the interest of Madeira and the people living here.

  6. You are persistent in your mistaking container transport for ro-ro transport. Two completely different things. The first needs a crane to load and unload. The second does not. It has wheels and a ro-ro ferry is perfectly adequate for that. Every ferry comprany using this type of ship takes freight trailers. I have been on many throughout Europe. On top of that. Madeira is the only inhabited island in the world without a ferry. Regardless of the number of inhabitants. Regardless of what the regional government wants you to believe.

    1. The legislation created back in 2005 clearly states that to be considered ro-ro transport the trailer needs to be attached to a truck. It must have the drive capability. A trailer by itself has no drive capability, it is just a container on top of wheels. The legislation also clearly states that every car/truck on board must have a driver on board too.

      What Naviera Armas was doing back in 2012 was that they allowed to take a trailer say from Lisbon to Portimao, then the truck would leave the trailer on board and the truck came out of the ship with the driver. Then, upon arrival in Funchal, another driver and truck would go pick up the trailer to take it to the final destination. This is what is against the legislation and against competition rules because other cargo companies were not allowed to the same. As I said, Naviera Armas found the service was profitable by transporting cargo against the legislation created 4 years before they started operating and disguised in passenger service.

      1. The legislation created back in 2005 clearly states that to be considered ro-ro transport the trailer needs to be attached to a truck. ???
        This is false. Try it. Present it.

        1. Please check APRAM “regulamento de exploração” Article 70º “Manuseamento de Mercadorias no Porto do Funchal”. The document is accessible doing a quick google search. Everything I stated above is in there.

          1. Luis, there is no such international or nacional law! Why do you insist in a stupid regional port regulation created with with the purpose protection of the container group that scadalous steals to all customers.
            Do you know what is a national or international maritime law? You definitely have an interest in subverting everything that is against the interest of the population?
            For who says ferry dos not have interest to youself, you had a lot of work responding to this page. That is what it is very “weird”.

              1. Great article. Not only exposes a Madeiran problem but is a straight resume of corruption on a national level, either in transport, electricity or fishing industry, Portugal keeps shutting down any international investment whose competitiveness would decrease costs and wealth for these called both public and private companies. A country, although so beautiful, that still lacks laws to defend its and foreign employees, the latter having to pay 60% of their income in taxes through the so-called unique act / green receipts.
                As a Portuguese, it is a shame seeing my country is getting more and more isolated and that its lack of education subsidies with stealing from people whose average wage is €750/month and unemployment and emigration levels are amongst the highest in Europe and the world. But, again the job centres will surely not reflect that either because people are not registered or because they’re in “education” doing weekly courses which credit for higher education.

                I also wonder what happened to the €500million hole that Alberto João was being investigated about but just suddenly disappeared from national news one day to the next…?!

                1. Thank you for your assessment! All absolutely true. It seems that the Salazar-dictatorship has been replaced by an oligarchy. The only difference is that there is not one single dictator but a group, that constantly puts their private interests above the people’s interests. It’s a scandal, and even though we (me and some other foreign Madeira citizens) alerted the European Commission, nothing was done. As for Madeira, the people as a whole is too afraid of them to vote them away.
                  As for AJJ’s investigation, I have no clue what happens, but now that you mention it, you are right, there is no more mention of it anywhere (but here).

            1. Back in 2005 Madeirean authorithies have established that Funchal was a passenger port only and cargo could only be unloaded in certain conditions (the ones described in the regulation). There is no international law that forces to go back in this decision, there are many ports in the world which are passenger only and many that are cargo only.

              From the moment Mr. Armas found he had to follow the rules he suddenly found the line was not profitable. He wanted to unload cargo in Funchal without carrying truck and driver truck on board, he wanted to pay zero tax, he wanted heavily subsidized passenger trips. After being told he was not being given none of that he found the obvious. The line is not profitable and he ran away. End of story.

              1. Luís Fonseca
                What you say is not history, but a fallacy. Antonio Armas never assumed that the Funchal Portimão maritime line was loss-making.
                The fact that non-containerised trailers had to be accompanied by tow tractors took away about 25% of the cargo capacity on the car decks, deliberately to undermine the operations of the ARMAS ferry.
                You cannot interpret the transfer of containerised cargo from Funchal to Caniçal in 2005, mentioning wrongly the ferry vessel, of course the Port of Funchal is for passengers. But the ferry is a mixed passenger-cargo vessel, and does not carry containers, much less the cargo volume of the container ships operating in Caniçal, in fact from 2008 to January 2012, the ARMAS ferry carried about 30 trailers from Portimão to Funchal on a weekly trip, nothing significant in relation to the container ships carrying hundreds of containers which are unloaded or loaded by means of lifting equipment, which have ceased to exist in the Port of Funchal.
                Of course, when transferring containerised cargo operations, they did not remember the existence of ferry vessels, which could operate in Funchal.
                This was an oversight by the Regional Government, and they cannot now prohibit ferry ships from unloading roundabout cargo.
                Nor can they force the trailers to be accompanied by the propulsion tractors, that belongs to the logistics of the operator, nothing more.

          2. and who do you think pulls the strings at APRAM? It is ridiculous that a public port has ruls in place to protect a monopoy. The least I can say is that it is against the interests of the Madeiran people. A port is a place of pubic importance. Not a place to provide a profit to a private party.
            On top of all that, I know for a fact that it is very common for a ro-ro ferry to transport the trailers. A small dedicated and agile lorry pulls the trailers off the ferry, where they are taken over with a normal lorry to pull them to their final destination.

            1. Your comment is very interesting so I just went to NavieraArmas website and took this from their FAQ.

              “When is a vehicle carried as CARGO?
              A passenger car (of the types mentioned above) will be considered to be travelling as cargo when it travels without a driver.
              We will also consider all those heavy vehicles such as vans, trucks, and all vehicles larger than them that transport goods.
              Those transported for removals, in their own cars, even if they carry furniture and other personal belongings, will be considered passenger vehicles, as long as they travel with a driver. If they are carried without a driver, they will be treated as cargo vehicle.
              Vehicles that cannot be loaded/unloaded by their own means (damaged vehicle), will also be considered a cargo vehicle.”

              So the rule that you say it does not exist anywhere else, exists where Mr. Armas is established. The Canaries. Now compare the prices between transporting a vehicle as CARGO or as with the driver and please tell me if Mr. Armas was applying the same rules in Madeira?

              1. What are you trying to prove? That Armas transported cargo? yes, they did. No fderry I have evr travelled on did not transport cargo. What is the problem? Competition for others? Obviousy..

                1. So this is your rationale if I understand correctly.

                  A regulation is created in 2005 stating what kind of cargo can or cannot be unloaded in Funchal Harbour which is a passenger only port. Every operator and ship for cargo only is force to unload the cargo in Caniçal.

                  Four years later you change that regulation so that an operator can now unload containers in Funchal harbour. If that operator/company is local the regulation is changed due to corruption. If that operator is international the regulation is changed to allow a free market and competition. Is this correct?

                2. Not at all. You keep splitting hairs over terming what is cargo and what isn’t It is completely beside the point. Aarmas was allowed to load and unload trailers without lorry, until that was stopped after a complaint. They did not like it, but they accepted it. The rule then was that they need to keep the lorries attached to the trailers. Fine. After that they requested a second slot in the harbour to do two return trips a week. But then, our corrupt friend Estudante invented more limitations to make them go away. Meanwhile, you have not answered my question why you think we can’t, shouldn’t and won’t have a ferry. What is your interest in th matter?

                3. Simple answer. Every source of competitiveness is welcome as long as it follows basic rules. Unfortunately numbers have shown that from a passenger point of view the demand is too low and is not enough to sustain the operation. The trip time does not help but we can only use this type of ship so that will not change soon. We can take advantage from the cargo transportation but then we would have the government subsidizing “phantom” passengers to transport cargo in a way that is not allowed to other operators.

                4. The numbers are of course Sousa provided. They don’t want the ferry. But whatever it is, if a company does not have information available until very shortly before the forst ferry is due to sail, you can’t expect people to book. As I have already stated, the operation of the sousa daughter responsible for the ferry was completly inadequate. People want to be able to book well in advance, and if people want to bring their vehicle, they want a trustworthy carrier so they can take it back if they wish. The sousa operated ferry has proven itself as a completely untrustworthy partner in this matter.

                5. The numbers are public, they are not provided by private entities. 2011 was the last year Naviera Armas operated this route all year round, that is around 50 return trips Madeira-Portimao-Madeira. Around 20’000 passengers transported, that gives 200 passengers per trip in a 1200-1500 seat ship. A nightmare. The gold mine that Mr. Armas found was cargo transportation. Unfortunately as soon as he was let know he had the same rules as its competitors the gold mine as gone and he ran away as fast as he could.

                6. There are no public entities that have access to figures conceerning privat operations. The private companies have to provide them. But that is also inconsequential. A nightmare you say? Then why do you think Armas wanted a second weekly return trip? Rubbish.

                7. “The numbers are public” as in they are available to anyone interested. A quick google search and you can find Naviera Armas itself corroborating these numbers. These numbers were used in the international public tender where Naviera Armas itself was one of the applicants.
                  Say I have a passenger airline and you have a cargo airline Peter. I ask the government to subsidize my airline because it is very important for Madeira to take more passengers to the island. But then in the end I am filling my passenger aircraft with cargo instead of people and I am using that subsidy so that my prices are more competitive than the ones you apply in your cargo airline. This is such a gold mine that I am not only making 1 flight a day I am making 3 flights a day with “passengers”. How can this be seen as fair competition?

                8. I tried to book the Armas ferry from Portugal to Funchal. Even though there was no publicizing from the Portuguese of the new ferry, I read a blog from a Polish traveller and because I am scared of flying I thought this would be a great way to travel to my birth island. The site was hard to find and impossible to book a return trip. It was also very confusing to get the information like times of crossings, etc. I gave up eventually. I’m sure many more people tried and failed to book the ferry. At the time I thought it was just typical Portuguese bad organisation but now that I have read this article it makes absolute sense that whomever was controlling the ferry did not want it to succeed. Madeira is my birth place and it’s really sad that they have Mafia style companies who hinder fair competition and growth. Thank you for fighting for us. Madeira deserves a ferry, it’s unheard of for islands not to have ferry connections to their mainland territories. Portugal, a country known for it’s sea faring should be ashamed!

          3. Cargo handling in the Port of Funchal???
            This never happened with ferry operations between Funchal and Portimão.
            The trailers would arrive or depart without any goods handling.
            That happens in relation to the Lobo Marinho ferry. Ok?

  7. Peter, great article. I have only lived here 2 years but my wife and I have seen first hand the level of corruption, especially in the construction industry. It is obvious that political nepotism is responsible for this. Another cause of concern here is the number of polluting vehicles that should never be able to pass the revisao. Of course, there are many positive things too otherwise we would already have left!

    1. Thank you Robin. I know there is also corruption therre. Especially in the road- and tunnelbuilding industry. It is such a ad thing to see that only a handful of excessively wealthy families rule the island. It has kept the Madeiran people in a stranglehold for far too long now. There is only one thing we can do: expose the corruption and nepotism to a maximum. The more this article is shared, and also the relevant articles in the faceb0ok group, the better.

  8. Very erudite report.
    One additional point you didn’t mention is that if you ship your vehicle on Sousa’s wonderful rip-off service for 500€. Your vehicle contents will be ransacked and stolen.

    This has happened to me three times.
    If you approach the company to complain they will simply point out that in their contract they are NOT responsible for goods/items inside the vehicle.

    The only way to avoid the issue is to place the vehicle in a container and ship it in that container, this pretty much doubles the cost.

    Best regards

    1. Wow, that is quite a story, Richard. Thank you for sharing this information. I think I will add this fact to the article. The only reason I did not mention it, is because I did not know. We have never used the Sousa rip-off-service, because we were lucky to have the Armas-ferry when it was time to ship our stuff to the island. It was in the summer of 2008.

  9. Well, the market should decide at what price it becomes profitable. But as it is in Madeira‘s interest to have a ferry connection, harbor fees should be zero resp. paid by the local government. Instead of adding additional cost and bureaucratic hurdles.

    1. Yes, Reinhard, the market should do that. But in our case, the government is unfair and favourises some parties, making it impossible for others to do a fair business. Before the government started to impede the ferry when it was still operated and organised by Naviera Armas, it was profitable and Armaas planned a second crossing per week. But the Sousas wanted their monopoly back and told the government to start imposing limitations. It’s all too transparent for people not to see, but it is probably much like Trump supporters who refuse to see the crimes he has done and is still doing.

  10. There have been hundreds of cases reported of in-cruise contamination at sea in the early days of the pandemic. In opposition, there have been very few in flight contamination since the pandemic started. No company in world can cope with 1 good month with this ferry service in normal years and for sure no company in the world can cope with this kind of service when people are afraid to death to put their feet on ships.

    Can we just accept that Madeira is too small and the mainland is too far to make this type of service (which requires this type of ship) sustainable instead of all the bla bla the government this bla bla the Sousas that?

    1. There have been hundreds of cases reported of in-cruise contamination at sea in the early days of the pandemic.
      Yes, there were in cruise ships, carrying 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000 passengers.
      Almost all cruise ships are paralysed, but not ferry boats.
      On a ferry it is possible to maintain a greater distance between passengers because of course it has larger public areas.

    2. Being cooped up on a cruising ship at a time where nobody knew much about the covid-19 virus is something quite different from taking a ferry knwing you have to be sensible and keep your distance.
      And no, there is now way we should accept a government that is ruled by the money of one or more large companies. The ferry has been torpedoed by ridiculous rules that were put in place to let the Grupo Sousa keep its illegal monopoly. Whatever you say, this is a fact and it is unacceptable. The ferry was quite sustainable when it was just Armas who operated it, before all kinds of restritions were imposed because the Sousas wanted them gone. They even were planning a second crossing. . No shipping company would do that if if would not be viable.

      1. There is no ferry tradition in Portugal except the islands. Most people in mainland will not know the difference between a ferry like the ones from Naviera Armas and the ones that cross Tagus River in Lisbon. The local market is not enough to sustain the operation even when heavily subsidized. I recall residents paid 60 euros for a return trip and the trip would have like 300 passengers in a ship that can carry more than 1000.

        Naviera Armas only planned a second trip if they could carry cargo which is currently not allowed to be unloaded in Funchal, only in Canical. You created a rule back in 2005 or 2006 saying that containers could only be unloaded in Canical not in Funchal but then Antonio Armas wanted to operate a passenger ship for cargo operation and do what others can’t. He also wanted to pay 0 tax in the harbour by the way.

        1. Container operations, effectively at the Caniçal Commercial Port, which has lifting equipment for them, and where dockers work.
          Compare containers with trailers that do not need lifting equipment or stevedores just out of mere ignorance.
          In Funchal it is allowed to operate trailers, the so called rotated cargo, not comparable with containers.

          1. absolutely correct. It keeps coming back to the same point. The Sousas want their monopoly and the government is bought so they will help them to maintain it. Scandalous and criminal.

        2. Zero tax in the harbour? That would be exactly as much as the Grupo Sousa pays for the almost daily Lobo Marinho. On top of that: it is a public service. If you want a public service to operate, than you have to do a little sacrifice. Instead, the apram (who owns it, do you think?) raised the harbour fees. Parasites.

    3. There have been hundreds of cases reported of in-cruise contamination at sea in the early days of the pandemic.
      Yes, there were in cruise ships, carrying 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000 passengers.
      Almost all cruise ships are paralysed, but not ferry boats.
      On a ferry it is possible to maintain a greater distance between passengers because of course it has larger public areas.

      1. Exactly my point, Paulo. But it seems obvious that people who come with reasons to not have a ferry obviously are against it. One has to ask oneself why. A regular frry with no public funding like the one Armas operated from 2008 onward can’t be something you are against, unnless you have interests that are negatively impacted by a ferry. In other words: unless you are in any way linked to th monopolist Grupo Sousa. Ifr you are against pblic funding, that would be a different matter. There is no need for public funding if the government takes away the obstructions it has created in order to make the ferry cease to exist.

    4. There are thousands of travelers all over the world still using ferries daily. COVID has not and will not stop them traveling. Your argument is ridiculous.
      The Sousa Group have an illegal monopoly on this island. It is against all EU rules of commerce. It is only a matter of time before they are stopped. I only hope I live to see the day.

      1. I agree compltely, Richard, but I honestly fear it will be a long, long time before this island liberates itself from Salazar-like corruption.

    5. After re-reading your comment, Luis, I start to get the impression you are against Madeira having a ferry. All your arguments ignore the quintessence of my article: the corruption causing an illegal monopoly. Money rules, not democracy. If all the parties involved would be treated equally, we would have had a reliabe ferry all year round, possibly even twice a week. But in Madeira, some extremely wealthy families rule, and the government is a bunch of pupets. Marionetas is a better word. I start wondering why you are against the ferry. Are you in any way related to the monopolist family? Or to one of the marionetas maybe?

      1. May I have an opinion without being associated to the government or to monopolist families? In case you have not realized Peter you live in an island with 270’000 people and although I know you´d like others to think everyone in the island works for the government or for monopolist families, that is now how it works.

        Monoplist and wealth families in a region abandoned by the central state up to the 70’s which then had a boom in construction and tourism. Wow! Did not see that coming. Must be something specific to Madeira…

        Going back to facts. Numbers show the ferry is not economically sustainable. You need traffic from the mainland to feed the line, not the other way round. If you are counting on the local market to sustain this it will be a disgrace because even heavilliy subsidized the numbers are just to low. The ferry is one of those things everyone supports, everyone wants to see the ferry coming and going in the port, everyone loves to see the unloading of cars and trucks into the island meaning economy is growing, but at the end of the day most buy an EasyJet or TAP ticket. It´s more like “Yes, I totally support the ferry so others can use it. Not me”. I am not one of those, I see from the numbers this is not working and I know why it is not working. The demand is to specific and locals are not enough to fullfiill this needs. Mr Antonio Armas is used to a 2.2 million residents market and 50 million in mainland Spain (which have ferry tradition). And all this is totally unrelated to government, the sousas, the monopolist families, the wealth families, etc, etc, whichever other excuses you want to find to show why it has not worked.

        1. I think you have to wake up. When Naviera Armas operated the ferry from 2008 onwards, it was perfectly profitable. So much so, they wanted a second crossing. And that was without any subvention from any government. Only after the government started to make things deliberately difficult it started to become a problem. But this is obviously a thing you do not want to hear.
          My husband brought our car on the first available ferry in 2008. The car deck was chock-a-block. Not just with passenger cars, but also all kinds of machinery used in road building, tunnel drilling and construction. He has made the trip to and from Madeira various times, and invariably, the car decks were full. Do you honestly think that an experienced shipping company like Naviera Armas, that operates many inter-island ferries in the Canary Islands, would try and establish a second crossing every week if it was not profitable? Again, it is obviously something you don’t want to hear. And when you say ‘the figures prove’ I am afraid it is the figures provied by the regional government, meant to convince us that a ferry is a bad idea. Not the figures given by Naviera Armas at the time.
          It is not rocket science to understand why this ferry can’t be profitable if the Sousas want to make money out of it where Naviera Armas is the one doing all the work and will also want its share. Two mouths to feed instead of only one. Wake up to the world. You are being conned by the PSD-M, the Sousas puppet-on-a-string.

          1. We have to deal with real numbers other than perceptions from a couple trips. I was onboard a BA flight from Heathrow to Funchal at the beggining of August and there were 166 passengers onboard. That is about 92% load factor. Does that mean all BA flights in Madeira arrive full to Madeira? I very much doubt it!

            Naviera Armas only found it was profitable by using a passenger ship to transport cargo into Madeira to circumvent the legislation that was created back in 2005. That legislation was in place many years before the first ferry connection and it has not changed since then. The rules were simple, if you want to unload containers in Funchal they must be on a trailer+truck (not just the trailer) with the driver in it. If it is just a container on top of a trailer that is cargo transportation and it needs to be unloaded in a cargo port like Caniçal. This is when Antonio Armas was upset, because the basically wanted to transport cargo in different conditions than others “disguised” in a passenger ship. Volcan de Tinamar can take 1500 passengers, on average it took 300 passengers you tell me how this is profitable without cargo.

            1. This is becoming tiresome. EVERY ferry transports cargo. That is what makes them profitable. And Armas found the line no longer profitable NOT after they were forced to keep the lorries attached. Because even then they applied fot a second crossing. Yuo have got your timetable wrong. . It was after mrs Estudante (the same one responsible for giving a friend a contract for a horrible christmas lighting) imposed other limitations that the line was found no longer profitable. But you, my friend, seem to have your mind set on proving that we should not, cannot and will not have a ferry. I really have to wonder why. Every argument I present to you is subsequently ignored and replced with a new (invalid) argument. If you wish to continue this discussion, it should be about why you not want a ferry,. Maybe anyone else has a clue, because I, for one, can’t imagine what can be your reaons.

    6. No, I travelled to Greece with over 3000 islands and every single island has a regular ferry service like a bus service. Madeira is definitely not too small. Having flights is not a good enough reason not to have a ferry. The UK has 100 flights per day to and from Dublin, some of these flights costing as little as €10 return. Even with so many and so cheap flights, there are still several daily ferry crossing just from Dublin alone. There are also several daily ferry crossings from Cork. Lots of people will prefer to travel by ferry and the number is growing. There is no reason not to have a ferry from Madeira to Portugal. There are families, people with cars, people with pets, older people, people with flight phobias who would take the ferry any day over the plane. Madeira is limiting itself by not having a ferry.

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