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LD Lines Launch New UK-Spain Route

4th November 2013
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LD Lines Launch New UK-Spain Route

#NewROUTE – LD Lines has begun a new UK-Spain route between Poole, Dorset and Santander in Cantabria served by ro-pax Norman Asturias with a capacity for up to 500 passengers, 200 cars or 110 freight vehicles, writes Jehan Ashmore.

As of mid-afternoon today, the 27,414 tonnes ferry entered the western approaches of the English Channel having departed Spain yesterday at 18.00hrs and is due to dock in the Dorset port this evening at 19.00hrs.

Norman Asturias was deployed to the new twice weekly return operated route having been displaced from the St. Nazaire (Montoir-de-Bretagne)-Gijón route which is now operated by  Scintu, a sister of the popular Visentini Italian built ro-pax design ferries. The French-Spain route is part of the EU's 'Motorways of the Sea (MOS) programme to divert traffic away from congested roads and transferring onto faster vessels (i.e. the ro-pax design).

The new 26-hour route represents a major development to LD Lines creation of an Atlantic ferry network, providing new links to serve the UK, French, Spanish and Portuguese freight. In addition catering for UK tourism markets and making regions such as the Algarve within easier reach.

To cover the long distance route, the 24-knot Norman Astuarias was deployed to the route. Among her sisters are Celtic Horizon and her predecessor on Celtic Link Ferries Rosslare-Cherbourg route the Norman Voyager. In mid-October she carried out berthing trials in Poole on behalf of her fleetmate.

LD Lines which is part of the Louis Dreyfus Group had tipped their toes into the Irish ferry market several years ago on the short-lived Rosslare-Le Havre operation. The service was only run at weekends as Norman Voyager also and remains running weekday sailings between the French port to Portsmouth.

The revival of the Rosslare route to Normandy had not been operated for many years when Irish Continental Group's (ICG) ferry division Irish Ferries ran the route served by St. Killian II until 1997. Following LD Lines departure from the Irish route, Celtic Link quickly seized a charter option of the 2008 built ferry until current route vessel Celtic Horizon came on the scene two years ago.

The introduction of LD Lines onto the Biscay run brings competition to long established operators Brittany Ferries whose services also run between Santander and the UK (Plymouth and Portsmouth). As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Brittany Ferries took over the Portsmouth-Bilbao route following P&O's exit of the Iberian service served by the former ICG owned Pride of Bilbao.

On another Irish related note the new LD Lines route will sharpen and focus minds again on previous calls to have a similar ro-pax operated service linking Ireland to Iberia.

As also reported, the Port of Cork has been actively involved in attempts to introduce such a service through the PROPPOSE partnership between the Irish port and Gijon.

Currently goods totalling 110,000 tonnes move between Ireland and Iberia by road via the UK and France with the consequent cost, environmental impact and susceptibility to French toll-roads. In addition that country's banning of HGV traffic at weekends and the planned implementation of Ecotax for trucks from 1 January  2014.

 

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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