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New Brittany Ferries Santoña Is Latest LNG-Powered UK-Spain/France Ferry to Arrive to Portsmouth Homeport

5th March 2023
Newbuild cruiseferry Santoña following a delivery voyage from Asia, arrives into Portsmouth, the ship’s UK homeport from where the latest E-Flexer class for Brittany Ferries is to operate on routes to Spain and France. Welcoming the cruiseferry on the Solent when approaching the English Channel port where two hovercraft, one peeling off portside into Southsea, the other starboard side to Ryde. The occasion was marked by  Hovertravel Ltd which operates to the Isle of Wight.
Newbuild cruiseferry Santoña following a delivery voyage from Asia, arrives into Portsmouth, the ship’s UK homeport from where the latest E-Flexer class for Brittany Ferries is to operate on routes to Spain and France. Welcoming the cruiseferry on the Solent when approaching the English Channel port where two hovercraft, one peeling off portside into Southsea, the other starboard side to Ryde. The occasion was marked by Hovertravel Ltd which operates to the Isle of Wight.

A new Brittany Ferries ship for UK-Spain/France routes has sailed into Portsmouth on Friday, following a delivery voyage from an Asian shipyard and berthing trials in Spain.

The newbuild named Santoña, is a luxurious cruiseferry that will operate to Santander in northern Spain twice a week, with a single weekly return-crossing to Cherbourg in France. The ferry's first commercial crossing to Santander departed also on Friday after a champagne reception to toast the cruiseferry's arrival.

Afloat adds that Santona’s actual first arrival to the UK port took place on Thursday night on its maiden voyage from Santander, before returning out to sea for the daytime publicity arrival on Friday afternoon (see photo) along with flypast of the Hovertravel craft in the Solent.

As as of this afternoon, Afloat also adds Santoña departed the Spanish port and is due to arrive in the UK tomorrow, Monday afternoon.

Santoña is powered by cleaner liquefied natural gas (LNG). That means passengers, freight drivers and crew can expect a smoother and quieter ride on this state-of-the-art E-Flexer class ship. Crucially, it also means far fewer air quality and CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions from its funnel.

The Santoña is the third in a series of five new E-Flexer class to join Brittany Ferries fleet (covering the period 2019 – 2025). All five were commissioned for Stena RoRo and will be chartered to the French operator. The other E-Flexers so far built are Salamanca which is to swap with Galicia this month as Afloat reported on the Rosslare-Bibao/Cherbourg routes.

It’s all part of the biggest ship renewal programme in Brittany Ferries’ 50 year history, a multi-million pound investment in a more sustainable future. Like LNG-powered sister-ship Salamanca, which entered service in 2022, Santoña will be a good neighbour to Portsmouth and its residents.

That’s because LNG is cleaner than diesel fuel. Virtually no air quality emissions like soot, sulphur or nitrogen dioxide are emitted from the funnel following combustion. Carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) are also up to 20% lower than for diesel fuel. The ferry therefore comes with the promise of cleaner air from day one in service, with the potential to realise further improvements in the years to come when new bio and e-Fuels are available to power what are sometimes described as “fuel agnostic” ships.

“We are proud to be long-term partners of Portsmouth international Port and the great waterfront city,” said Christopher Mathieu chief executive Brittany Ferries. “But we want to be more than just a company that contributes significantly to the local economy, taking people to beautiful destinations in France and Spain. We also want to be partners for change, boosting moves to improve air quality across the city and to tackle climate change. That’s why ships like Santoña and the hybrids to come are so important.”

The next two Brittany Ferries vessels on the horizon will feature hybrid technology. Like a hybrid car, they will run on fuel (LNG), on electric power or on a combination of the two. At sea the ships will be powered by cleaner LNG. But upon the approach to the city, while manoeuvring in port and at quay, hybrid technology takes charge.

Arriving in 2024/2025, the ferries will replace two grande dames and favourites of the Brittany Ferries fleet, Bretagne (a former Cork-Roscoff ferry) and Normandie. They will serve Portsmouth-Caen and Portsmouth-St Malo and both will be shore side power ready.

They are configured to be plugged-in to recharge batteries and to run systems on board while alongside, cutting emissions to zero. Portsmouth International Port and the City Council has been key to lobbying for – and securing – the large increase in power supply needed, as well as investment in infrastructure to get power to the port gate.

Work is continuing to secure the final piece of the jigsaw, connecting power from the port gate to the quayside where ferries and cruise vessels will dock.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council said: “We are proud of our long-term partnership with Brittany Ferries, and hugely impressed to see their plans for sustainable expansion going from strength to strength.

“Brittany Ferries shares the city’s ambitions for a future focussed on protecting the environment, we are committed to supporting them to achieve their clean growth goals, which is why we are securing additional green energy to provide power for ships in the future that can plug in when in port.

“As expected from Brittany Ferries Santona is an impressive ship and we look forward to seeing her sail regularly through Portsmouth.”

Santoña – on board

Santoña is a ship that brings the art of travel to all. Its capacious interior spaces are designed to be accessible to every passenger, with boutique shopping, a cinema and atrium bar with sky roof on the menu.

Cabins are roomy and boast mattresses that are said to be the most comfortable on the Channel. A C-Club Lounge is offered to those seeking a premium experience, to complement the comfort and relaxation that comes as standard when travelling on board a Brittany Ferries ship.

There’s ample space for 1,015 aboard this 215-metre ship. She hosts 343 cabins and pets are welcome too. There are 22 pet-friendly cabins, meaning Fido can join the family on holiday to France or Spain.

Artworks and meals on board are inspired by Santoña and the regions of Spain served by the ship. So Brittany Ferries can rightly claim to walk-the-talk when it says your holiday begins the moment you step on board.

While dreaming of beautiful destinations that await upon arrival in Santander, passengers can while away the hours on deck whale and dolphin spotting. The Bay of Biscay is one of the richest places on Earth for spying these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. Lucky travellers might even spot a blue whale, the largest creature ever to have lived on the planet.

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).