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By-Pass Brexit Sees Brittany Ferries Plan for 'Another' Ireland-France Freight Route

28th January 2021
Another By-Pass Brexit Route? Operator, Brittany Ferries, is considering its options as plans are in progress for a further Ireland-France freight route connecting with the Breton ports of Roscoff and St Malo using the ro-pax cruiseferry Armorique. Could both Cork and Rosslare be the benefactors? As for Armorique, AFLOAT has tracked to Le Havre where it is laid-up along with Bretagne, the first 'cruiseferry' to operate the Cork-Roscoff route in 1989. Another By-Pass Brexit Route? Operator, Brittany Ferries, is considering its options as plans are in progress for a further Ireland-France freight route connecting with the Breton ports of Roscoff and St Malo using the ro-pax cruiseferry Armorique. Could both Cork and Rosslare be the benefactors? As for Armorique, AFLOAT has tracked to Le Havre where it is laid-up along with Bretagne, the first 'cruiseferry' to operate the Cork-Roscoff route in 1989. Credit: Brittany Ferries

With fallout of post-Brexit, demand from hauliers for direct ro-ro freight routes has led to 20 interventions by shipping companies notably between Ireland-France and another new route may be added to the fast-changing ferry scene, writes Jehan Ashmore.

According to Brittany Ferries, plans are in progress for a further freight route, this would involve connecting two Breton ports, Roscoff and St. Malo with Ireland. The aim of the French operator is to finalise schedules and begin operations as early as next month using Ro-Pax vessel Armorique (above) which Afloat adds operated the Cork-Roscoff 'seasonal' service while standing in for routine cruiseferry Pont-Aven in 2019 due to repairs required.

A growing number of haulage companies are shipping goods using unaccompanied trailers. Brittany Ferries says demand is rising, and the ports it serves on the western English Channel in France, the UK and Ireland are set-up to receive these loads. It believes more companies will look west in the months to come, and it has urged hauliers and logistics companies to get in touch.

“Things like negative Covid tests for drivers are certainly helping drive the trend for unaccompanied loads,” commented Simon Wagstaff Brittany Ferries freight director. “However, there are other financial benefits in going driverless. We know of one large haulage operation in Ireland, for example, that has organised reciprocal arrangements with another in Spain, dropping off and picking up trailers for each other. That’s a cost-effective way of doing business.”

In 2018 Brittany Ferries launched the first ever direct Ireland-Spain route, Cork-Santander, however Afloat adds the link was abandoned in favour of switching both Irish and Spanish ports. This led to another new Ireland-Iberian link, the Rosslare Europort-Bilbao route (launched almost a year ago) that predominantly serves freight traffic.

Just 10 days ago, Brittany brought forward the opening of another service out of Rosslare to Cherbourg, initially operated by Cap Finistere (see Afloat photo caption yesterday) however in mid-February to be replaced by ro-pax Connamara which launched the Cork-Santander route and followed by the Kerry.

The earlier than scheduled launch of the new Wexford-Normandy connection is to enable Irish, French and Spanish hauliers seek an alternative to the UK land-bridge, with the cost, time and administrative burden that this now brings.

In a normal non-Covid year, the French operator handles around 210,000 freight units using a twelve-strong ferry fleet which also operates on the English Channel and Bay of Biscay. The ferries serve Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, St. Malo and Roscoff in France, Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth in the UK, Santander and Bilbao in Spain.

The Irish ports used by Brittany Ferries, saw Cork first served in 1978 to open the Roscoff route and last year's debut out of Rosslare 'Europort', where the south-east port (in 1990 was 'branded' given its suffix) is currently very much centre-stage.

Published in Brittany Ferries, Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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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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