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Ireland-France Route Is Strongest Performer for Brittany Ferries But Warns of Brexit on UK Services

21st October 2018
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The chartered Connemara contributed to boosting Brittany Ferries Cork-Roscoff (Ireland-France) route as the operators strongest performing of the company's network of 12 routes that collectively also links those between the UK, France and Spain. AFLOAT adds the Cypriot flagged Connemara arriving to Cork (Ringaskiddy). In the background the stern of a Cunard Line 'Vista' class cruiseship that called to Cobh. The chartered Connemara contributed to boosting Brittany Ferries Cork-Roscoff (Ireland-France) route as the operators strongest performing of the company's network of 12 routes that collectively also links those between the UK, France and Spain. AFLOAT adds the Cypriot flagged Connemara arriving to Cork (Ringaskiddy). In the background the stern of a Cunard Line 'Vista' class cruiseship that called to Cobh. Photo: Brittany Ferries

#FerryNews- Cork-Roscoff route was the strongest performing Brittany Ferries service of the French company's network, linking the UK, France and Spain, however concerns over Brexit loom on the horizon, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Figures released by Brittany Ferries for passenger and freight figures covering quarter-three period (July-Sept) 2018 show an encouraging season. During the 3-month period, passengers figures on the Ireland-France route for 2017 was 44,744 and this compared to this year with 48,700 (an increase of 9 per cent).

The rise in passengers is reflected through the introduction in May of additional capacity following the debut of the chartered-ropax, Connemara on the Ireland-France route but also on the new first ever 'direct' Ireland-Spain link between Cork and Santander.

On the UK, Spain and Ireland routes, there were 127,434 passengers in 2017 and for this season the figure reached 142,108 a rise of 12% on these long-haul routes, again due to the contribution of Connemara.

Overall passenger numbers on Brittany Ferries routes over the summer season were also up 2pc to 1,078,507 compared to the same period last year.

In terms of freight figures, Brittany Ferries have published an overall total for all routes (and likewise of passengers, it is for the same timeframe). Total freight carried in 2017 was 47,815 while for this season the number was marginally down at 45,649. A difference of -5 per cent. 

Brittany Ferries which uses three UK English Channel ports (Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth) is where 85 per cent of the ferry firm's passengers are UK holidaymakers visiting key regions in France and northern Spain.

In recent months, Brittany Ferries announced a total €450m investment in three new ships post-Brexit on UK-France-Spain services (firstly next year, LPG fuelled Honfleur followed by a pair of Stena E-Flexers), however they also raised an alarm. This is from a fall in demand for family holidays next summer, which Brittany Ferries has warned of serious consequences for international tourism and the regions it serves if a Brexit deal does not bring certainty and the free movement across borders enjoyed by customers today.

Roll back to more than four decades when the origins of Brittany Ferries arose from Breton farmers wanting to export vegatables to new markets in the UK, which would lead to the formation of the largest ferry operator currently on the English Channel. The company, Bretagne-Angleterre-Irlande (B.A.I) otherwise as we know as Brittany Ferries was founded by Alexis Gourvennec who strove to enrich Brittany for the benefit of its citizens.

Since Brittany Ferries first sailing took place in 2 February 1973, the day after the UK (along with Ireland and Denmark) joined the European Economic Community (forerunner to the EU), the French operator has grown into a multi-national operation whose biggest export region is British tourists.

The launch earlier this year of the new Ireland-Spain service has opened up opportunities not just for tourists but also freight-hauliers. In addition to increasing cultural Celtic connections with the Iberian peninsula.

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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