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French Ferry Company Transport its first CMA CGM Container on English Channel

14th January 2022
First-driverless CMA-CGM container load taken on-board Brittany Ferries ro-ro freigher Contentin. First-driverless CMA-CGM container load taken on-board Brittany Ferries ro-ro freigher Contentin. Credit: Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries's partnership with container giant CMA CGM was finalised in 2021 to support the French ferry company's post-Covid recovery.

It promises complementary English Channel freight transport links, thanks to a ‘fast lane’ solution bringing shorter transit times and increased frequency.

CMA CGM continues to implement agile transport solutions for its customers in a global context of pressurised supply chains

The partnership signed in September, between French ferry firm Brittany Ferries and global shipping and logistics group CMA CGM reached a new milestone on Tuesday, with the first cross-Channel shipment of CMA CGM containers.

Containers were lifted onto special chassis and loaded aboard Brittany Ferries’ Cotentin in the port of Le Havre (where Afloat adds cruiseferry Cap Finistere is berthed: see story). The freight vessel had departed Le Havre for Portsmouth at 16:30 French time.

The first driverless CMA CGM load to be carried by Brittany Ferries across the Channel further strengthens links between the two companies. Thanks to the partnership, conventional articulated lorry loads have already been carried on Brittany Ferries’ Portsmouth – Caen route.

However, CMA CGM Group can now offer its customers a ‘fast lane’ solution for containers, with shorter transit times. There are more available sailings too; four services every week connect Le Havre with Portsmouth.

An ambitious commercial partnership serving both groups’ customers

The partnership creates significant opportunities for passenger and freight shipping, thanks to the respective expertise of CMA CGM Group and Brittany Ferries.

It will permit growth in cross-Channel shipping, cementing France’s position in the sector. It will also allow CMA CGM to strengthen its transportation service between France, the Iberian Peninsula and the British Isles, and will allow Brittany Ferries to further develop its freight and logistics expertise.

Christophe Mathieu, CEO Brittany Ferries said: “This is an important moment in our partnership with one of the world’s biggest shipping and logistics companies. We know that we must adapt to market trends and customer demand in order to prove our strength in a competitive market. This is therefore a welcome milestone and highlights the mutual benefits of working together.”

Mathieu Girardin, CMA CGM’s central director for short sea routes added: “This first shipment demonstrates the dynamism of our commercial partnership with Brittany Ferries, and is a major step as we build our multimodal service linking France, the UK, Ireland and Spain. CMA CGM Group continues to implement innovative and agile solutions to meet the needs of its customers.”

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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