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Brittany Ferries Invests in Pair of Newbuild Cruise Ferries for UK-Spain Routes

10th June 2018
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A visual montage of how Brittany Ferries newbuild of the Stena E-Flexer series will be when introduced on the long-haul UK-Spain routes, among them Portsmouth (above) which will be the hub-port for both sisters with the first due in service in 2021. Afloat also adds directly beyond the newbuild in the background is the current main Portsmouth-Spain cruiseferry, Cap Finistère seen arriving to the ferryport. A visual montage of how Brittany Ferries newbuild of the Stena E-Flexer series will be when introduced on the long-haul UK-Spain routes, among them Portsmouth (above) which will be the hub-port for both sisters with the first due in service in 2021. Afloat also adds directly beyond the newbuild in the background is the current main Portsmouth-Spain cruiseferry, Cap Finistère seen arriving to the ferryport. Photo: Brittany Ferries -twitter

#FerryNews - Brittany Ferries has confirmed recently the charter of two brand new cruise-ferries to serve its long-haul UK to Spain routes.

Both ships adds Afloat are of the Stena E-Flexer design (see Stena Line Irish Sea debut in 2020) that will be built at the Avic International Weihai shipyard in China, with the first arriving in time for Brittany Ferries on the 2021 holiday season.

The latest investment underlines the company’s commitment to Portsmouth and to its Spanish routes. It comes after work began this spring on a brand new LNG (liquefied natural gas) cruise ferry called Honfleur to serve its most popular Portsmouth – Caen crossing. Like Honfleur, which arrives in 2019, both ships announced today will be registered under the French flag and will be crewed by French seafarers.

Together the three ships will spearhead a wide-ranging, five-year fleet-renewal and modernisation programme worth around £400m.

Portsmouth is Brittany Ferries’ UK hub and will serve as the base for both ships. Upon arrival they will cater for an ever-increasing demand for long-haul ferry travel to Spain. In 2017 the company operated 844 sailings on routes from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth to Santander (Cantabria) and Bilbao (Basque Country), carrying 331,000 passengers and 150,000 cars. That was around 80 per cent more than ten years earlier.

“Spain is by far the most popular foreign destination for UK holidaymakers, and we have seen significant growth in demand,” said Jean-Marc Roué, Brittany Ferries’ president. “Post-Brexit, we expect this to continue and today’s announcement is a clear statement of intent. As well as passenger traffic, we believe that an increase in freight capacity will open the door to more hauliers seeking direct access between Britain and the Iberian peninsula.”

Last year, Brittany Ferries carried around 40,000 freight units from UK to Spain. Lorry drivers are able to relax as the sea takes the strain, reducing fuel costs, tolls and road pollution that comes from driving long-haul through France.

Measuring 42,400 tonnes and 215 metres long, the new vessels will be the longest in Brittany Ferries’ fleet. If Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower were laid on its side, each would outstretch it by 45 metres. These impressive dimensions will allow them to carry almost two miles of freight vehicles apiece.

The new ships are being chartered from Swedish shipping company Stena RoRo, as part of its new generation of state-of-the-art ‘E-Flexer’ vessels. Both will be gas-ready and promise a combination of luxury and Spanish style. “These ships will be like twins,” added Catherine Querné, Brittany Ferries strategy director. “Outwardly, they will have the same dimensions and shape, but they will be dressed very differently. And of course each will have its own unique personality.”

There will be plenty for passengers on board. Three spacious passenger decks will host boutiques, a café, restaurant, bar and an exclusive club lounge. Around 300 en-suite cabins will cater for approximately 1,000 passengers and many will be adapted for customers with disabilities, as well as those travelling with their pet dog or cat (Brittany Ferries carries around 70,000 annually).

Elegant décor will ensure everyone feels in the holiday mood as soon as they step on board. Brittany Ferries will be working with Spanish interior designers to give the ships a stylish, modern feel and feel, evoking the golden coasts, verdant landscapes and vibrant towns of España Verde (Green Spain) on the northern coastline.

The announcement follows the launch of the first ever direct ferry service linking Ireland with Spain when Brittany Ferries’ Connemara made its first Cork-Santander sailing with an arrival to the northern Spainish port on 10 May 2018.

The year 2018 also marks 40 years of continuous services linking Britain with the Iberian Peninsula. Since 1978 more than 5.5 million passengers have enjoyed Spain without the ‘plane thanks to Brittany Ferries.

Technical specifications:

Length 214.5m

Breadth 27.8m

Draught 6.4m

Tonnage 42,400

Service speed 22 knots

Decks 10

Passengers 1,000

Passenger cabins Around 300 plus 36 for freight drivers

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. 

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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