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Brittany Ferries Flagship Cruiseferry Pont-Aven Paints a Picture of Service 10 Years On

26th April 2014
Pont Aven Photo Jehan Ashmore
Brittany Ferries 'flagship' cruiseferry Pont-Aven passing Cobh, the 2,400 passenger vessel is now operating her 10th season on the Cork-Roscoff route, to where the ferry is seen on an outbound sailing to France. Photo Jehan Ashmore
Brittany Ferries Flagship Cruiseferry Pont-Aven Paints a Picture of Service 10 Years On

#PontAven10years – This day ten years ago Brittany Ferries flagship cruiseferry Pont-Aven, was named in a ceremony, by her Breton owners in Roscoff, from where the luxury vessel sailed last night to Cork Harbour and returns to France this afternoon, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Pont-Aven is named after an attractive small Breton town also known as the 'cité des peintres' as the location drew artists to sketch its picturesque scenery.

Among those drawn to paint scenes of Pont-Aven were Monet and the flagship celebrates the heritage of its namesake through of course it paintings, even boosting among its artwork collection a painting by Gaugin.

She was designed primarily for the UK-Spain market in which she made her maiden voyage from Plymouth to Santander on 24 March 2004, with crowds lining Plymouth harbour to cheer her off.

Further maiden voyages included her English Channel route from Plymouth to Roscoff which included a reception on 27 March. She made her 'Irish' maiden crossing to Cork's Ringaskiddy Ferry Terminal arriving on 2 April. Later that month, on 26 April she was officially named in Roscoff.

A decade on and at 41,700 tonnes, the 184m Pont-Aven, remains an impressive vessel within Brittany Ferries modern fleet. She has a 2,400 passenger capacity and crew of 470 which service the luxurious facilities which can easily be described as cruiseferry standards.

Pont-Aven is unique to any cruiseferry serving Ireland as she features the Finistère indoor swimming pool offering sea-views on a high-deck and with an adjoining bar.

Also among her extensive amenities is Le Fastnet Piano Bar to reflect her Irish trading route connections with her season-only sailing schedule operating to a weekend round-trip from Roscoff to Cork.

Pont-Aven was custom-built for Britanny Ferries by Meyer Werft shipyward in Papenburg, Germany, to serve the UK-Spain market as well to the Breton-Cornwall link between Roscoff and Plymouth.

The western Engish Channel route was Brittany Ferries first route in 1973 with its origins stemming from exporting Breton vegetable produce to the UK market. Since then the company have dramatically expanded to offer gite, cottages, chalets holidays and more. 

The Irish service followed five years afterwards and the Roscoff-Cork route is currently the only ferry route from Munster and therefore the longest continous operating service since its inception in 1978.

In addition to the the Irish route, Pont-Aven is kept busy linking three other nations on an intensive schedule. In order to maintain the sailing roster, the 28 knot Pont-Aven can achieve this from an engine power of 50,400 kW and propulsion power of 43,200 kW.

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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