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New Direct Ireland-Spain Service Delayed to Next Weekend

29th April 2018
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Connemara was originally to launch a new Ireland-Spain route (today) with an inbound sailing from Santander, however work on the ropax at Astander's yard, Santander (above) is underway to prepare the ferry fully. Instead a revised date of the inaugural outward crossing (from Cork) will be next Sunday, 6th May. The ferry will have an all-white livery and not the 'économie' branding blue wave scheme as depicted in the image posted on Afloat when the new service was announced in January. Connemara was originally to launch a new Ireland-Spain route (today) with an inbound sailing from Santander, however work on the ropax at Astander's yard, Santander (above) is underway to prepare the ferry fully. Instead a revised date of the inaugural outward crossing (from Cork) will be next Sunday, 6th May. The ferry will have an all-white livery and not the 'économie' branding blue wave scheme as depicted in the image posted on Afloat when the new service was announced in January. Photo: Brittany Ferries Ships, Enthusiasts & Crew-facebook

#FerryNews - The new Cork-Santander route, the first ever direct ferry service connecting Ireland and Spain, originally scheduled to start today, has been delayed to next weekend, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Afloat had noted the change of sailings and confirmed with operator, Brittany Ferries which commented that Connemara’s entry into service has been slightly delayed in order to allow our technical teams at the Astander shipyard (in Santander) all the necessary time to prepare the ship fully.

Brittany Ferries added the new route's first sailing will now be at 12.00 on the Santander-Cork route on Sunday 6th May, a week later than scheduled. Afloat adds that the revised inaugural Cork-Santander sailing is scheduled for a departure at 11.00 on Wednesday, 9th May.

Afloat also highlights that the Irish-Iberian route operating to an 'économie' no-frills service does not take 'foot' passengers on the twice-weekly operated service. 

In the interim period between the first inward bound sailing to Ireland and of the first outward sailing to northern Spain, Connemara is also scheduled to make a debut on the Cork-Roscoff route that this years celebrates a 40th anniversary. The 14 hour route since 2004 is operated by flagship Pont-Aven, providing cruiseferry services at weekends.

Connemara will also introduce new capacity on the Ireland-France link (in the lead up to Brexit) by operating a single weekday round trip. These additional sailings are also based on the économie' service and include 'foot' passengers unlike the Spanish service.

In what will be a historic occasion, the launch of the Connemara connecting Cork and Cantabrian city of Santander is a game-changer. The crossing taking around a day, brings benefits to tourism in both directions but also freight bypassing on Ireland-France links and avoiding the long distance drive south to Spain and Portugal.

As previously reported in January, the new continental route sees Brittany Ferries charter Connemara from Stena RoRo. 

The previous charter of the 500 passenger/195 car /120 cabin ropax as the Asterion was to ANEK Lines on a Italy-Greece service, but the 27,415 gross tonnage ropax is no stranger to the Bay of Biscay. Then as Norman Asturias, the ropax operated GLD Atlantique (later LD Lines) St. Nazaire-Gijón route in recent years though no longer exists nor does the operators onward link to Ireland between St. Nazaire and Rosslare Harbour.

The 2007 Visentini shipyard built Asterion this week arrived from Greece to Santander for dry-docking and also be renamed Connemara. Another Irish connection is fastferry, Jonathan Swift which Irish Ferries sold. The high-speed craft (HSC) which when departing Dublin yesterday was understood to be renamed, Cecilia Payne arrived also in northern Spain this morning but further to the west in La Coruña, Galicia.

The en-route call of the Austal-Auto Express 86m catamaran, likely to be for bunkers, is to continue on a delivery voyage to the Mediterrranean. A new career for the craft beckons between Spain and the Balearic Islands. 

Returning to Connemara, the Cypriot flagged 186m ropax is at Astander's No. 2 dry-dock in El Astillero (near Santander). Connemara becomes Brittany Ferries first vessel to be named with an Irish connection. Compared to the rest of the fleet that in the majority are named after scenic locations and towns in Brittany and neighbouring Normandy.

Connemara is not Brittany Ferries first 'économie' service as the concept was introduced in recent years on the Portsmouth-Le Havre route. This is one of the operators five services on the English Channel. 

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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