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Brittany Ferries UK-France Cruiseferry Honfleur Celebrates Second Construction Milestone

11th August 2018

#FerryNews - Honfleur, Brittany Ferries newbuild cruiseferry celebrated a second milestone with a keel-laying ceremony this week. The occasion marked a leap forward in sustainable design, one that is at least as significant as the ship’s innovative liquefied natural gas (LNG) power deliver system.

Afloat highlights that the cruiseferry is to enter service in 2019 on the UK-France route: Portsmouth-Caen (Ouistreham). The Normandy port is situated close to the cruiseferry's namesake coastal city of Honfleur. At more than 42,000 gross tonnage, the new ship will become the largest in the fleet, surpassing current flagship Pont-Aven which operates Cork-Roscoff in addition UK-Spain services.

The keel-laying ceremony marked the point at which the first hull blocks are lowered onto a slipway. After they are joined, Honfleur’s blocks will form a complete a hull that promises to glide through the seas far more efficiently than ships of the past. Fuel consumption will be lower and ride quality will be better for passengers.

“Technology has transformed the way we design hulls,” says Heike Billerbeck, head of ship theory and hydrodynamics at FSG, the German shipyard at which Honfleur is being built. “Over the last 20 to 30 years we’ve reduced wave resistance by between a third and a half.”

Heike and her team spent around three months creating a digital model of Honfleur’s hull, and testing it using computational fluid dynamic software.

This allowed them to visualise the size and angle of the bow wave and wake the ship will create: smaller waves mean less wasted energy. They also created animations of how Honfleur will perform in heavy seas as well as calculating exactly how much power Honfleur will need to sail at a given speed, ensuring she meets efficiency targets set by Brittany Ferries.

The shape of the hull – of which the keel is the very lowest beam running from bow to stern – has a huge impact on a ship’s manoeuvrability in port and its stability at sea. A good design reduces vibration that can sometimes be felt from the propeller which means Honfleur will be a more comfortable ship, as well as being better for the environment.

“Passengers will never see Honfleur’s hull, but they will certainly feel its benefit,” said Brice Robinson, Brittany Ferries naval architect, speaking from the keel laying ceremony. “Think of your car. It has been designed to slip through the air as cleanly as possible to maximise its fuel efficiency. The hull of a ship is just the same. It’s just a question of hydrodynamics rather than aerodynamics.”

The ‘coins in the keel’

The moment at which the keel is laid is marked by an ancient traditional coin-laying ceremony. This week, coins were placed in Honfleur’s keel by representatives of Brittany Ferries and FSG as a token of good fortune.

The origins of this tradition can be traced back to Roman times, when coins were placed into the mouths of soldiers killed in war in order to pay Charon, the mythological ferryman, to carry them across the River Styx.

In the past keel laying took on greater significance. For wooden ships, this was often the first time a vessel took physical shape. Now this happens with the earlier steel-cutting ceremony, after which a shipyard spends several months building huge sections of hull which are then craned onto a slipway, then welded together.

But the moment that the first of those steel sections is laid onto the slipway (from which Honfleur’s finished hull will be launched into the Baltic this December) remains an important moment.

For more visit the Honfleur website here.

Published in Brittany Ferries
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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About Brittany Ferries

In 1967 a farmer from Finistère in Brittany, Alexis Gourvennec, succeeded in bringing together a variety of organisations from the region to embark on an ambitious project: the aim was to open up the region, to improve its infrastructure and to enrich its people by turning to traditional partners such as Ireland and the UK. In 1972 BAI (Brittany-England-Ireland) was born.

The first cross-Channel link was inaugurated in January 1973, when a converted Israeli tank-carrier called Kerisnel left the port of Roscoff for Plymouth carrying trucks loaded with Breton vegetables such as cauliflowers and artichokes. The story, therefore, begins on 2 January 1973, 24 hours after Great Britain's entry into the Common Market (EEC).

From these humble beginnings however, Brittany Ferries as the company was re-named quickly opened up to passenger transport, then became a tour operator.

Today, Brittany Ferries has established itself as the national leader in French maritime transport: an atypical leader, under private ownership, still owned by a Breton agricultural cooperative.

Eighty five percent of the company’s passengers are British.

Key Brittany Ferries figures:

  • Turnover: €202.4 million (compared with €469m in 2019)
  • Investment in three new ships, Galicia plus two new vessels powered by cleaner LNG (liquefied natural gas) arriving in 2022 and 2023
  • Employment: 2,474 seafarers and shore staff (average high/low season)
  • Passengers: 752,102 in 2020 (compared with 2,498,354 in 2019)
  • Freight: 160,377 in 2020 (compared with 201,554 in 2019)
  • Twelve ships operating services that connect France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain (non-Covid year) across 14 routes
  • Twelve ports in total: Bilbao, Santander, Portsmouth, Poole, Plymouth, Cork, Rosslare, Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Saint-Malo, Roscoff
  • Tourism in Europe: 231,000 unique visitors, staying 2.6 million bed-nights in France in 2020 (compared with 857,000 unique visitors, staying 8,7 million bed-nights in 2019).

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