#FrenchDucVisit – On this date a quarter of a century ago, a Brittany Ferries ship made a once-only visit to Cork, a unique event in Irish ferry terms which was personally observed, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The 1500 passenger/350 vehicle ferry Duc de Normandie was seen sailing into Cork Harbour on 28 March 1992, having sailed overnight from Roscoff, Brittany. To add to the unique occasion the arrival of the business-like yet handsome looking ferry was noted when entering the neck of the lower harbour. This was noted from the elevated site of the former Fort Camden beyond Crosshaven.
The site now officially named Fort Meagher also affords views to its counterpart Fort Carlisle (Fort Davis) on the opposite side of the harbour. Further south along that side of the coast is the iconic landmark of Roches Point Lighthouse.
As an avid ferry enthusiast, the course of the Duc de Normandie was keenly traced as the former Dutch ferry (Prinses Beatrix) gently weaved further into the expanse of the natural harbour, yet a route that is dictated by the channel beneath. By the time the ferry was between Whitegate Oil Jetty and Spike Island, it was decided to depart this vantage point and head to Ringaskiddy Ferry Terminal.
Upon arrival in Ringaskiddy, the distinctive sound of 'live' Breton traditional musical was clearly heard within the grounds of the ferry terminal. Reasons as to why soon transpired as a wedding celebration was underway. It was nice to see such an occasion and how the seasonal ferry link gave an example in connecting Celtic traditions between the Irish and Bretons.
It should however be noted that this now historic visit by Duc de Normandie, which was made early into the seasonal service of 1992 had followed the opening sailing. This saw the deployment of a chartered but former Brittany Ferries ship, Cornouailles.
This would not be a conducive return to Cork of the ferry renamed Havelet of British Channel Island Ferries. Following a late arrival, Havelet set off on the return crossing to Roscoff but a freak wave struck the Norwegian custom-built ferry.
The incident caused a serious listing and damage on the vehicle decks. This led to the Havelet having to turn around and head back to Cork for repairs. Two days after the terminated sailing the ferry departed after repairs, however this caused a row with the Department of the Marine who claimed that enquires into the incident were not completed.
To replace Havelet on the Ireland-France service this led to this first and only visit of the Duc de Normandie, however it would be Quiberon that would take over the shoulder months that season. The Quiberon been no stranger to the continental route having entered service in 1982 on a route that was established almost four decades ago in 1978 by the Armorique.
As for the high-season summer months of 1992, they were carried out by the then flagship Bretagne. The first custom built 'cruiseferry' for Brittany Ferries entered service in 1989. She was designed to operate Spanish and English Channel routes in addition to serve the seasonal duties of the Irish route.
There have been other once-off callers from the Brittany Ferries fleet but they were deployed during the earlier years of the route. Asides Duc de Normandie, the most recent once-off caller was Bretagne albeit having served the route until 2004, the cruiseferry made a return visit to Cork two years later.
On that occasion, a trip was made to see the Bretagne make an arrival and departure in October 2006. The reason was that routine flagship, Pont-Aven was on charter for the Route du Rhum yacht event.
Pont-Aven as Afloat recently reported was deployed on St. Malo-Portsmouth duties in tandem with routine ship, Bretagne. The Cork-Roscoff regular, Pont-Aven is scheduled to resume the seassonal service this week.
The first sailing from France departs Roscoff on Friday, 31 March and the corresponding return sailing from Ireland departs on Saturday, 1 April.
#Increase – An increase of 5% has been reported by operator Brittany Ferries in the number of passengers travelling to Ireland in 2016, compared to the previous year.
The company begins its seasonal Ireland-France service next month operated by Pont-Aven. On Saturday, 1 April, sailings depart from Cork (Ringaskiddy) and every subsequent Saturday throughout the season. The return sailings depart from Roscoff every Friday until early November.
Ireland’s popularity as a travel destination show no signs of waning as the number of French passengers travelling with the cruise-ferry operator has been rising steadily over the last number of years. General Manager Hugh Bruton said ‘We’ve noticed an increase in the number of French passengers travelling to Ireland, which has been a continuing trend in the last few years, and demonstrates both the popularity of Ireland as a travel destination and the valuable contribution that Brittany Ferries is making to the Irish economy.’
Bruton added, ‘There’s no better way to experience all that France has to offer than on a self-drive holiday and the figures reveal that passengers enjoy the many advantages of ferry travel. Not only does it allow holidaymakers to explore the region at their own pace, it also means you can pack as much as you want, which is particularly convenient for families with a large amount of luggage, adventurers travelling with bikes or keen golfers hoping to get into the swing of things on France’s greenways.
The service in 2016 ended strongly with 4,500 passengers and 1,100 cars on the last two sailings of the season. 2017 looks set to be an even more successful year with ferry bookings up 4% on the previous year.
Pont-Aven will resume the fastest direct ferry crossing between Ireland to France, taking just 14 hours and operating to a convenient weekend schedule. The state-of-the-art ship is the most modern to be found on any of the direct continental crossings .
#SeaFilm - Time of Their Lives, the latest film to star Dame Joan Collins saw the actress sail on a UK-France ferry looking to find love, adventure and true friendship.
In the film, Collins is joined by co-star Pauline Collins which sees the superstar actresses on board Brittany Ferries cruiseferry Mont St. Michel from Portsmouth to Caen, Normandy. The scenes were shot on board the cruiseferry last summer, to the delight of 500 passengers and French Captain Bertrand Cuvillier who hosted the stars for breakfast during the crossing.
On arrival of Mont-St.Michel in the French port, the film sees the pair head south in a Citroen 2CV. Love interest comes en-route courtesy of Italian heartthrob Franco Nero, before a dramatic finale on the beautiful island of Ȋle de Ré.
The Atlantic Ocean setting of Ȋle de Ré, Afloat adds is where one of the island harbour's Saint-Martin-de-Ré is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island is reached not by sea but a bridge connecting to the mainland near La Rochelle, the capital of the Charentes-Maritime department.
Accompanying the actresses were a 40 strong film crew, that shot scenes in the cruiseferry’s bar, on deck and from the port. All these scenes cinema-goers will see on the big screen.
The film premiered on Wednesday this week and advanced screenings took place on board the Brittany Ferries fleet on Thursday. This was followed by general release on Friday, both in the UK and Ireland. To see a trailer click here.
To celebrate the launch of The Time of Their Lives, Brittany Ferries has put together a three-night sail-and-stay break (albeit only available from the operators UK ferryports). For example on the Portsmouth-Caen route that replicates the character's voyage of discovery.
The offer includes two nights on the idyllic and glamorous Ȋle de Ré island, home to the rich and famous. The offer is available up until 30 June 2017.
Brittany Ferries which also operate a seasonal Ireland-France (Cork-Roscoff) route begins at the end of this month with Pont-Aven. The flagship is scheduled to make an inward bound crossing from France on 31 March.
On the following day, Pont-Aven departs Cork on 1 April to make the debut outward crossing to Roscoff. The overnight French route at 14 hours is the shortest and fastest crossing between Ireland and the continent.
#NewLNGbuild - Irish Continental Group (ICG) parent company of Irish Ferries, in May 2016 announced an order for a new cruiseferry in a German shipyard in which Brittany Ferries have also signed a letter of intent with the same yard to construct a newbuild.
Afloat adds the Irish order to Flensburger Schiffbau (FSG) scheduled for delivery in May 2018 notably differs to that of the French ferry given this newbuild will be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). The 42,000 gross tonnage ferry will operate on the English Channel but the Breton based company has a seasonal service to Ireland as referred below.
The announcement re-states Brittany Ferries' commitment to reduce the environmental impact of its operations by embracing new technologies. It follows the completion of a £65m investment in emission-reducing 'scrubber' systems retrospectively fitted to the flagship Pont-Aven (Cork-Roscoff: seasonal) and five other cruise ferries in the company's ten-ship fleet.
According to Brittany Ferries, the newbuild will be one of the cleanest, most environmentally-friendly ships to operate in UK waters because LNG emits less carbon dioxide during combustion than marine fuel oil and burns with no smoke. In addition it is free of sulphur and is very low in nitrogen oxide emissions.
Christophe Mathieu, CEO, Brittany Ferries said: "The signing of this letter of intent with the Flensburger shipyard is a concrete step towards the construction of a new generation of Brittany Ferries ships. Despite Brexit, we remain confident in our ability to continue to grow and modernise our route network, serving both tourism and trade in the regions of western Europe."
More than four in five people travelling on the French company's ships are British and more than 2.4 million passengers were carried in 2016. A final contract for the 1,680 passenger and 257 cabin vessel is expected to be signed in spring 2017, following which construction will start.
The new ship is expected to launch in 2019 on the Portsmouth-Caen route which offers three daily return sailings. It will operate in tandem with popular cruise ferry, Mont St Michel, launched in 2002.
#CancelledSailings - Plans of thousands of holidaymakers have been thrown into disarray after technical problems forced the cancellation of this weekend’s sailings of Brittany Ferries flagship Pont-Aven vessel between Cork and France.
The Irish Examiner writes that the French ferry and holiday company confirmed last night that the Pont-Aven’s scheduled sailing on Friday from Rosscoff to Cork, and its Saturday sailing from Cork to Rosscoff have both been cancelled.
They are among several Pont-Aven sailings between Ireland and England to France and Spain, which have been cancelled this week after the vessel developed propeller problems.
A Brittany Ferries spokesperson said: “Brittany Ferries is endeavouring to contact all affected passengers as soon as possible with advice and available options.
“Passengers are being asked to be patient as there may be difficulty in contacting Brittany Ferries due to the volume of calls.”
The spokesperson encouraged passengers to check the company website for sailing updates.
“The company apologises to all passengers for the inconvenience this will cause to journeys,” she said.
The Pont-Aven, Brittany Ferries’ flagship vessel, entered service in 2004.
The newspaper which mas more to report here also adds that plans announced two years ago to replace the vessel have been put on hold, it has emerged.
#CutEmissions - Brittany Ferries has invested €17 million to cut fuel emissions from its flagship Pont-Aven with the installation of exhaust gas cleaning systems.
As previously reported on Afloat, Pont-Aven is unique in that it is the only ferry operating in Irish waters in 2016 to be fitted with “scrubbers”, which dramatically reduce sulphur emissions to almost zero and significantly reduce particulate output.
Hugh Bruton, General Manager of Brittany Ferries Ireland said, “As a company, we have a profound respect for the environment and we have made a significant investment to ensure that our passengers will be travelling on the cleanest and most environmentally-friendly ship to operate in Irish waters this year. The installation of the scrubbers is just one of a number of steps that we have implemented as we strive to achieve sustainable tourism.”
The scrubbers were installed at the renowned Gdansk shipyard in Poland, before the commencement of the 2016 Cork-Roscoff sailing season earlier this month. The work on the Pont-Aven marks the completion of a major €80 million project over 18 months by Brittany Ferries to significantly improve the environmental performance of its six-strong car ferry fleet in Ireland and the UK.
Mike Bevens, Group Commercial Director at Brittany Ferries added, “Today we are still largely owned by the collective of French farmers who launched the company more than 40 years ago, with the aim of linking territories and improving trade. These aims have always been framed by a will to respect the environments in which we operate and this significant investment is testament to our on-going commitment.”
Brittany Ferries implements various measures to reduce the impact of its operations and to support organisations that promote conservation work including:
Cutting CO2 emissions while sailing
Brittany Ferries operations are planned to minimise fuel consumption, by reducing speed on overnight crossings. The effects of tides and the wind are also harnessed to optimise fuel efficiency.
Our water discharge policy
The Pont-Aven is fitted with water treatment units so that uncontaminated water is discharged to sea, and at a minimum of 12 nautical miles from the coast. Polluted water is stored on board, then discharged on shore, to be disposed of by certified waste disposal contractors.
Using anti-fouling paints
Brittany Ferries uses the latest silicon-based anti-fouling paints to coat the submerged parts of hulls. These are low in toxicity and also enhance flow through the water, aiding fuel efficiency and thereby reducing CO2.
The Pont-Aven is taking part in the longest running marine biological survey in the world, towing continuous plankton recorders (CPR) for SAHFOS. Brittany Ferries also works with whale and dolphin charity ORCA. Wildlife officers are hosted on the Pont-Aven throughout the summer to monitor and report on whale and dolphin sightings though the Bay of Biscay. This helps government fulfil its obligations under the Habitats Directive, but also supports conservation work to protect these beautiful sea creatures.
The Pont-Aven continues to offer the fastest direct ferry crossing from Ireland to France, taking just 14 hours and operating to a convenient weekend schedule. The state-of-the-art ship is the newest and most modern ship to be found on any direct crossing between Ireland and France. Passengers onboard enjoy unmatched cruise style standards and award-winning service and cuisine. Facilities include pool and bar areas with panoramic sea views, two cinemas, shopping malls, luxurious spa treatments and a wide range of restaurants, as well as complimentary Wi-Fi in all public areas of the ship.
Building on a highly successful sailing season in 2015, Brittany Ferries has reported a 19% increase in the number of early bookings compared to the corresponding period last year. The ferry operator, which begins its new season on 02 April has weekly sailings from Cork to Roscoff every Saturday and return sailings departing from Roscoff every Friday until 04 November 2016.
Last year, Brittany Ferries carried an additional 5,000 passengers on its seasonal service from Cork to Roscoff with a total of 84,000 passengers being transported, compared to just under 79,000 the previous year. Over half of passengers (55%) were French, highlighting the contribution that Brittany Ferries is making to Irish tourism and the economy.
Commenting on the 2016 season, Hugh Bruton said, “We have experienced strong passenger growth over the last few years and, based on the significant increase in early bookings, it looks set to continue in 2016. The fact that France is hosting the Euro 2016 tournament has obviously led to an increase in sports fans travelling to cheer on Ireland but there is also a large portion of holidaymakers looking to take advantage of the sandy beaches, glorious countryside, fine food and drink and fascinating heritage sites. We’ve also witnessed an increasing number of French passengers, proving that Ireland remains an exceptionally popular destination for tourists. We are delighted to report that bookings are strong to date and look forward to welcoming passengers on board the Pont-Aven this season.”
The Pont-Aven continues to offer the fastest direct ferry crossing from Ireland to France, taking just 14 hours and operating to a convenient weekend schedule.
#NewFreightService – Irish hauliers trading to Iberia, will have added choice as Brittany Ferries are to charter a conro vessel to launch a new Poole-Bilbao freight route to begin service next month, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The 12,079 tonnes conro Pelican with capacity for 100 unaccompanied trailers and 12 drivers, had been on long term charter to the French Ministry of Defence. The 1999 built vessel is to serve Brittany Ferries for one-year with an option to extend.
Pelican will carry out two round-trips per week on the UK-Spain service. Previously, LD Lines until 2014 had run two routes from Poole but to other northern Spanish ports and also operated an Iberian link to Ireland via France but that too closed in the same year.
Brittany Ferries reported a 20 per cent increase in freight traffic across all routes and that 2016 has also started strongly. The introduction of the Pelican with additional capacity it is hoped by the company will drive even more business through Poole.
"There is a very limited charter market for this type of vessel and we were delighted to find a cost-effective vessel on the French International Register," commented Simon Wagstaff, Brittany Ferries' freight director. This will allow us to operate effectively, but also to balance the books in this important area of our activity."
The charter of Pelican will assist Brittany Ferries to meet growing demand from freight customers and free up more garage space on other ships on their Spainish network. The conro is owned by Compagnie Martime Nantaise (MN) which also operates and manages a fleet of mostly ro-ro vessels serving on the international charter market.
Notably, MN also manage the 1896 built three-masted barque Belém, (which has called to Irish ports), on behalf of the Belem Foundation for the Caisses d’Epargne group. The long career of the historic barque built in Dubigeon Nantes had involved several owners, among them, Arthur Ernest Guinness who during the 1920 had her sailing as the Fantôme II.
#FerryScrubbers - Pont-Aven operated the final Cork-Roscoff round trip sailings last weekend with the Brittany Ferrries flagship scheduled to reopen the seasonal service in April 2016, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Saturday’s sailing also marked the last Irish-France crossing of the 2,400 passenger /650 cabin cruiseferry before the 41,748 tonnes ferry’s funnel are to be installed with 'scrubbers' this winter. The fitting of scrubbers are a result of new stricter 'green' controls following the EU Low Environmental Low Sulphur Directive that came into effect at the beginning of this year.
Pont-Aven will be unique in that she will be the only ferry operating in Irish waters during 2016 fitted with the sulphur emission scrubbers. This is due to the fact that the ferry also plies on the Roscoff-Plymouth route in the English Channel, one of several geographical zones that are under the EU directive to curb on emissions.
The Irish Sea nor surrounding waters are part of such a sulphur zone, SECA (Sulphur Emission Control Area). In addition to the English Channel, the other SECA zones include the North Sea and the Baltic.
Work to install the emission reduction technology on the 2004 German built Pont-Aven are understood to take place early next year at the Astander shipyard in Santander. The installation of scrubbers are essentially gas filters which allow the ferry to burn cost-effective heavy fuel oil, whilst still complying with new, stringent regulations applying to ships' emissions.
The Spanish port is also where the Pont-Aven serves a regular service to Plymouth.
So far the majority of Brittany Ferries fleet have undergone work to fit scrubbers, as briefy referred in Afloat, notably in the case of Normandie last year. It transpired following her return to the Caen (Oustreham)-Portsmouth route, the alteration of the funnel's appearance was rather boxy.
As for Pont-Aven, it will be interesting to see if the modifications carried out, albeit important, do not overwhelming detract from what is an overall attractive looking ferry.
The latest fleetmate currently receiving scrubbers is Normandie’s route-mate, Mont St. Michel. Likewise, the work is been currently carried out in Santander and is due to be completed in December.
Mont St. Michel sailings are instead been taken by Armorique, which stood down from her main Roscoff-Plymouth duties. In turn the most western English Channel route services are been maintained by Bretagne. As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Bretagne ended the final 2014 round trip sailings on the seasonal link to Ireland.
Getting into more technical details, a scrubber cleans the ship's exhaust, removing about 90% of the sulphur dioxide, this is to comply with new MARPOL VI limit of 0.1% sulphur emissions. They have the added benefit of removing about 70% of particulate matter which is also harmful to health.
One scrubber is required for each engine, which requires considerably investment, for example Pont-Aven has seven engines (four for propulsion, and three for electrical power). So each will require seven scrubbers.
Approximately, the cost is £10 million per ship - as well as the length of time it takes to install the scrubbers of around eight weeks. Afloat understands that Brittany Ferries are expected to pay more than €31m to complete the programme of installing the scrubbers across almost the entire ferry fleet.
During a recent sailing on board Armorique, a senior crew member commented to Afloat.ie that the 2009 Finnish built ferry will also undergo the work to install scrubbers between January and March.
Returning to the Irish route, Pont-Aven is scheduled to resume seasonal sailing service with the first inbound crossing to Cork on 1 April 2016. The outward return leg departs Ringaskiddy ferryport the next day on 2 April to Roscoff.
#BrittanyBegins – Brittany Ferries first Cork-Roscoff season sailing for 2015 took place today as the flagship Pont-Aven departed Irish shores on the Cork-Roscoff service, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Pont-Aven is the French operator's custom-built 41,748 tonnes cruiseferry that features luxury cabins with balconies. The 2,400 passenger /650 cabin vessel also boasts an indoor swimming pool, the only ferry to have this unique facility serving in Irish waters.
This year will be the 36th season of Brittany Ferries on the direct Ireland-France link that was begun by Breton based operator Bretagne-Angleterre Irlande (B.A.I) otherwise known as Brittany Ferries. Since then over the decades the company has continued to grow the service with a range of stylish ferries on the 14-hour route between Munster and Brittany. In addition to running a network of cruiseferry-style services on UK-France routes and services also linking the UK and northern Spain.
It is only since last year that Brittany Ferries have introduced their no frills 'économie' marketed UK sailings on the Portsmouth-Le Havre and Portsmouth-Bilbao routes. This allows passengers to have an option to travel on services with fewer on board amenties while offered at lower-fares.
Due to passenger demand and no doubt competition from former rivals, LD Lines who subsequently closed all their routes last year, Brittany Ferries have responded.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the company are to launch a second ship to join Etretat when the no frills concept service is boosted by the launch in May of chartered ro-pax Baie de Seine.