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Strong Passenger Performance for Brittany Ferries Except for Fall In English Channel Traffic

3rd November 2022
Strong financial figures for the French ferry company as their Armorique made the final end of season sailing on the Cork-Roscoff route yesterday. On the same day, the new Salamanca sailed on a maiden crossing from Rosslare to Bilbao, a year-round operated service linking Ireland and Spain.
Strong financial figures for the French ferry company as their Armorique made the final end of season sailing on the Cork-Roscoff route yesterday. On the same day, the new Salamanca sailed on a maiden crossing from Rosslare to Bilbao, a year-round operated service linking Ireland and Spain. Credit: Brittany Ferries-retweeted

Brittany Ferries has today published figures showing strong performance for passenger services on UK-Spain/France and France-Ireland routes however there was a fall in traffic on English Channel operations.

The figures outlined relate to the ferry firm's full financial year (November 2021 to October, 2022) which show that freight had also struggled to recover 2019 levels, the last pre-Covid comparison year.

Figures (see below) show a 27 percent reduction in freight carried on UK-France routes, and a 22 percent decline on UK-Spain. France-Ireland and Ireland-Spain (see latest story) are welcome exceptions to the downward trend, reflecting lower volumes using the so-called UK land-bridge in transporting goods between EU member states.

Brittany Ferries says it is optimistic for the year ahead. Forward reservations are positive, and there are no barriers to passengers crossing borders, as there were in France at the beginning of 2022.

Freight performance: November 2021 to October 2022:

Brittany Ferries salutes freight companies and drivers who helped keep the business operating and carried essentials like medicines across borders during the Covid crisis.

However, in its first post-Covid year, the company is concerned by a drop in overall demand on UK-France and UK-Spain services. Brexit controls have played a role in this trend. The company says it will do all it can to offer operators an alternative to short-sea crossings, the Covid crisis having demonstrated the need for resilience and sea-borne-freight options beyond Dover.

Brittany Ferries freight carried

 Brittany Ferries Freight carriedBrittany Ferries Freight carried 

While Brexit has had a negative effect on routes connecting the UK, it has created opportunities elsewhere on the company’s route network. New services have been launched connecting France directly with Ireland, exploiting what operators call 'The Brexit by-pass'. This means avoiding the UK land-bridge entirely when shipping goods between France and Ireland. Volumes have risen more than six-fold to 9,587 units.

Ireland-Spain has also posted positive results. Freight volumes rose 172 percent to 13,644 units, with an accelerating trend towards unaccompanied or driverless loads. These now comprise 45 percent of the total carried.

Passenger numbers: UK-Spain surges forward, UK-France falls back

The last 12 months have painted an optimistic picture on many routes, but concern on others.

Long routes, for example UK to Spain, have seen a significant increase in passenger numbers. Volumes rose by 9 percent to 320,364 units (November 2021 to October 2022). This has helped Brittany Ferries record a positive financial performance for the year (please note financial figures will not be released before the AGM next March). Equally Ireland – France connections have surged forward, thanks in part to an increase in services linking Brittany and Normandie with Cork and Rosslare.

However, volumes on Channel routes are a concern.

“While our long routes have surged forwards, the Channel is a real concern for Brittany Ferries and our partners,” said Brittany Ferries CEO Christophe Mathieu. “Overall volumes were down by 35 per cent to 1.22 million units in the last year. There are a number of reasons for this disappointing performance, including French borders re-opening in mid-January missing much of the busiest period for holiday bookings post-Christmas.

“But the post-Brexit imposition of passports for French passengers visiting the UK has dramatically hit this side of our business too. What is needed now is a concerted push from tourist bodies in France and the UK to boost volumes next year and to aid the recovery of this market for us and other companies operating in the tourism sector.”

Brittany Ferries passengers

Brittany Ferries passengersBrittany Ferries passengers

Fleet renewal continues apace

Launched in March 2022, Salamanca is the first of four Brittany Ferries (E-Flexer class newbuild) vessels to be powered by cleaner (LNG) liquefied natural gas as part of investment in fleet renewal.

As Afloat reported yesterday, Salamanca made its maiden voyage having been introduced for services throughout the winter and into next summer on the Cherbourg and Bilbao routes to Rosslare Europort. The aim is to grow by 50,000 the number of holiday makers sailing between Ireland and Spain. Operating under the French flag, Salamanca will be crewed by French seafarers and can carry 1,015 passengers.

The ship has been operating the Portsmouth-Cherbourg and Portsmouth-Bilbao route since her introduction into service with Brittany Ferries in March this year. A second LNG-powered vessel called Santoña will join the fleet in March next year. She too will be based in Portsmouth.

Santoña will be followed by two LNG-electric hybrid vessels in 2024/2025, replacing two of the longest serving ships in the fleet Bretagne (1989) and Normandie (1992).

The hybrids will call Portsmouth home, and will serve St Malo in Brittany and Caen in Normandie. They will work like a hybrid car, sailing on cleaner gas power, on electricity or on a combination of the two. They will also be plug-in ready, when investment in port re-charging infrastructure allows.

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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