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‘Proposed’ Cork-Spain Route Remains Under Review

15th February 2011
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‘Proposed’ Cork-Spain Route Remains Under Review
The Port of Cork Company has announced that it is unlikely that the proposed new ferry service to Spain will commence in March, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The port authority has advised those waiting to book their holidays on the planned Cork-Gijón route, instead go ahead and make a booking with other ferry operators. 
Existing Cork based ferry services are provided by Fastnet Line to Swansea, with the first outward bound sailing from Cork on 5 March. The port also serves the continent with a Brittany Ferries outbound seasonal sailing on the Roscoff route resuming on 2 April.  

In addition to services running out of Rosslare operated by Celtic Link Ferries and Irish Ferries and the alternative option of landbridge connections to Europe via the UK.

In the meantime, the Port of Cork will continue to be in dialogue with potential operators and investor's, however in the current climate it is proving more challenging to establish the service. Yet both the port authorities in Cork and Gijon remain committed in establishing the first direct Irish-Iberia passenger ferry route, with an update on the Spanish service due in early June.

Since 2008 the port authorities of Cork and Gijón, through the Promotion of Short Sea Shipping and Co-Operation with Small Medium Enterprise's (Proppose) an EU Inter-Reg project, have conducted feasibility studies into the service.

Interest in the service to date, has shown interest from Brittany Ferries, P&O Ferries and Transfennica, a Scandinavian based operator. It was envisaged that a ro-pax type of vessel would operate the 24-hour route to Gijón in Asturias, the region which forms part of Spain's northern 'Green' coast.

The route across the Bay of Biscay would be an attraction to freight hauliers, saving mileage and reduced fuel costs in addition avoiding a weekend ban to trucks travelling through France.

Last summer the ro-pax Norman Bridge started a new route between Nantes / St. Nazaire (Montoir-de-Bretagne) and Gijón, operated by GLD Atlantique. This route received support through the EU 'Motorways of the Seas' (MOS) programme to divert vehicle traffic from congested road-infrastructure and transferred to designated shipping routes, using larger and faster ro-pax vessels.

The route's opening was marked with a declaration signed by Dominique Bussereau, the French Minister of State responsible for Transport and his Spanish counterpart Magdalena Alvarez of the first of two Franco-Spanish MOS concept routes, starting with the 14-hour GLD Atlantique service.

Published in 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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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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