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Brittany Ferries Connemara Debuts Firstly on France Route But Diverts to Brest

8th May 2018
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Connemara (note in revised all-white livery) makes a first call to Cork Harbour yesterday morning having arrived without passengers nor freight from Santander, Spain. Today, the chartered ropax made a debut for Brittany Ferries, albeit on the French route from Cork but instead of calling to Roscoff, the ferry diverted to Brest and berthed this afternoon. Connemara (note in revised all-white livery) makes a first call to Cork Harbour yesterday morning having arrived without passengers nor freight from Santander, Spain. Today, the chartered ropax made a debut for Brittany Ferries, albeit on the French route from Cork but instead of calling to Roscoff, the ferry diverted to Brest and berthed this afternoon. Photo: BF enthusiasts -twitter

#FerryNews - Brittany Ferries new chartered Connemara has completed a maiden voyage overnight from Cork however instead of arriving in Roscoff, the ropax ferry diverted to Brest from where the ship this afternoon has just berthed, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 500 passenger /195 car capacity Connemara was originally intended to launch Brittany Ferries much anticipated new first ever Ireland-Spain direct ferry route on 29 April (since revised to this Wednesday, 9 May). As for the debut of Connemara, circumstances dictated otherwise, with the ropax ferry picking up a pilot this afternoon prior to berthing at Brest as a temporary port.

Connemara was scheduled to depart Cork yesterday mid-afternoon but did not vacate the berth at Ringaskiddy until after midnight, today. The long delays encountered in the Irish port were due to a mandatory survey of the Brittany Ferries chartered-in Cypriot flagged ropax. The surveys were carried out by (DTTAS) Department of Transport, Toursism and Sport.

Officials from DTTAS through their division, the Marine Survey Office (MSO) part of Irish Maritime Administration (IMA) carried out a survey inspection of the 186m Connemara. The surveying of the 27,415 gross tonnage ferry was to satisfy national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping requirements prior to the certification of the 2007 Visentini built ropax.

The reason for Connemara's change of Breton port today was because Roscoff only has a single ro-ro-ramp which since this morning was occupied by the same operator's Armorique. The cruiseferry arrived overnight from Plymouth on schedule and remained in port until a departure this mid-afternoon bound for Cornwall.

According to Brittany Ferries, foot passengers booked on today's Connemara return sailing to Cork have been advised of a bus connection departing Roscoff (17.00) to transfer those to Brest from where the sailing tonight, Tuesday, 8 May departs at 19.00.

As previously alluded, Connemara was originally to have begun service on the new Ireland-Spain route. The 'économie' no-frills Cork-Santander service as previously reported on Afloat was delayed due to technical works forcing Connemara to dry-dock in Santander. The setback saw the original launch date of the first sailing on the new continental connection, from Santander to Cork on April 29 revised to last Sunday of this May Bank Holiday weekend (but this too was cancelled).

Due to Connemara's operational route diagram, the ropax still departed Spain on Sunday (without passengers or freight) to Cork. The Brittany Ferries ship, the first named with an Irish name, made an inaugural arrival to Cork Harbour yesterday morning. At 08.00 Afloat monitored the Connemara pass the backdrop of Cobh before berthing in Ringaskiddy Ferry Terminal.

The terminal is also where flagship, Pont-Aven routinely operates cruiseferry based Cork-Roscoff sailings. Cruiseferry sailings are from Cork every Saturday, returning from France on Friday's. Connemara's introduction but also based on the 'économie' service will boost capacity on the Ireland-France route. When sailings settle in, they will operate from Cork every Monday and from Roscoff on Tuesday's.

As mentioned the new Ireland-Spain service begins with a Cork-Santander sailing scheduled from the Irish port tomorrow morning at 11.00. This continental connection to Cantabria, in northern Spain, offers two overnight sailings each week with departures from Cork on a Wednesday and Friday and departures from Santander on a Thursday and Sunday.

Among passengers booked on tomorrow's maiden Ireland-Spain sailing are fans of Leinster Rugby. The province having reached the final of the European Champions Cup play French team Racing 92 from Paris.

Irish fans after disembarking in Santander will head east to the next major sea port city of Bilbao, Biscay, where the San Mamés Stadium is the venue for the sporting finale taking place this Saturday, 12 May. 

On another Irish-Iberian connection, if our entry for the Eurovision Song Contest succeeds in tonight's semi-finals, we could also be cheering on at the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. This takes place also on Saturday but in neighbouring, Portugal at the Altice Arena in the capital Lisbon.

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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