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Brittany Ferries Launch First Ever Direct Ireland-Spain Route

16th January 2018
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An artist's impression of Connemara, a Visentini built ropax ferry that will be chartered-in to operate the new direct Ireland-Spain route between Cork-Santander, the first ever ferry link between the countries. Operations are to start at the end of April based on schedule of two return-sailings a week. An artist's impression of Connemara, a Visentini built ropax ferry that will be chartered-in to operate the new direct Ireland-Spain route between Cork-Santander, the first ever ferry link between the countries. Operations are to start at the end of April based on schedule of two return-sailings a week. Photo: Brittany Ferries

#FerryNews - Today, Brittany Ferries announced a new direct Ireland-Spain route, the first time ever a ferry service has linked the countries.

Starting at the end of April, the service between Cork and Santander, will be making two return-sailings a week.

The announcement comes as Brittany Ferries celebrates its 40th year in Ireland as previously reported on Afloat. The popular Cork to Roscoff route opened on St Patricks Day in 1978 and has been serving Irish holiday makers and haulage companies ever since. It has also brought millions of French passengers to Ireland, boosting the local and national economy.

A new ship will be chartered to serve the route to Spain, and to deliver an additional weekly return-sailing from Cork to Roscoff. To be called Connemara, she will follow the successful économie model that the company has established on UK-France and UK-Spain services. As well as opening a new route Connemara will add much needed capacity to the company’s existing line to France, creating more opportunities for short breaks.

“This is a significant move for Brittany Ferries, offering haulage companies a direct route to Spain and passengers a far greater range of holiday options from Cork,” said Hugh Bruton, general manager Brittany Ferries Ireland. “As a destination so-called green Spain promises visitors a wealth of opportunities. It hosts sweeping sandy beaches, snow covered mountains just an hour from the port, fabulous food and offers visitors a welcome as warm as the Spanish will receive when they join us in Ireland.”

The ship is currently operating on routes between Italy and Greece and will be chartered from Stena RoRo for an initial period of two years. She will carry around 500 passengers with space for 195 cars. She hosts 2,225 lane metres of garage space and Brittany Ferries expects a fifty-fifty split between passengers and freight carried.

The Port of Cork welcomed the announcement which will facilitate and enhance significant freight and tourist activity already established in Cork. Commercial Manager Captain Michael McCarthy said, “The Port of Cork wholeheartedly welcomes a service we have been trying as a port to establish for some time now. We are delighted that our long term customer, Brittany Ferries, has committed to this new service which will see an increase in tourism and freight. The option for freight carriers to bypass the UK land bridge will be seen as very attractive, as Brexit uncertainty continues. We have no doubt that both exporters and importers will make this a viable service.’

On board, passengers can expect a comfortable, no-frills service with a distinctly Spanish theme. Dining options will reflect the regions served, reinforcing the company’s drive to reveal more about its destinations at every stage of the journey. There will also be a small shop and café-bar as well as passenger lounges.

Interior and exterior cabins are spacious, with beds for up to four passengers. Four-legged members of the family will also be accommodated thanks to a small allocation of pet-friendly cabins on the ship.

The new service from Brittany Ferries is expected to be on sale by the end of January.

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. 

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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