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More Ireland-France Sailings Cancelled As Brittany Flagship Is Off Service for Repairs

27th May 2019
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Sporting the new Brittany Ferries livery is flagship Pont-Aven when in Cork Harbour before technical issues began to beset the cruiseferry as sailings once again are cancelled on the Cork-Roscoff route next weekend (Sat. 1 June) Sporting the new Brittany Ferries livery is flagship Pont-Aven when in Cork Harbour before technical issues began to beset the cruiseferry as sailings once again are cancelled on the Cork-Roscoff route next weekend (Sat. 1 June) Photo: Robert Bateman

Brittany Ferries have been forced yet again to cancel sailings on its Cork-Roscoff route due to operational reasons as flagship Pont-Aven continues to be beset with technical issues, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Currently Pont-Aven remains in dry-dock at Damen Shiprepair, Brest, following an hydraulic problem which took place in mid-May while on a sailing from the UK to France.

The incident led in turn to cancelled sailings on the Ireland-France route where affected passengers to date and next weekend (1 June) have been offered to defer the sailing to a later date (subject to availability) or cancel and receive a full refund.

Brittany Ferries are in the process of assisting customers and await a confirmed date of Pont-Aven's return (see updates) in addition the operator have taken the precaution of blocking any further bookings on cruiseferry between now and 7 June.

Communication of developments will also be made as soon as possible via our sailings update page.

An in-depth investigation has begun by the French operator into the incident.

Commenting about the incident Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries CEO who said “We are all truly sorry for the further problems with our flagship vessel Pont-Aven. Unfortunately she has suffered two technical problems in rapid succession. While the previous engine problem, which reduced the ship’s speed from 24 knots to 20 knots, is entirely unrelated to the current steering gear issue, the consequence of further bad luck is significant inconvenience for our passengers."

The German built Pont-Aven is fitted with two entirely independent Rotary Vane steering gears, each operating one of two rudders. These are self-contained units positioned at her stern directly above the rudders . Hydraulic oil is injected at high pressure into a series of chambers which operate the rotating part of the steering servo-motors. As these chambers fill, the rotor turns, thus moving each rudder in the desired direction.

According to Brittany Ferries, Pont-Aven’s engineers were alerted to low oil pressure in the starboard steering gear. An oil leak was identified which caused the pressure loss and a reduction in steering capacity. Under these circumstances, the decision was immediately taken to take Pont-Aven out of service in Roscoff, for investigation and remedial work to be carried out in Brest.

Unfortunately, following further investigation it was found that damage to the starboard side steering gear was more extensive than originally suspected. This has meant a longer lay-over in Brest than originally planned to source replacement parts and carry out a comprehensive repair.

A repair procedure has been defined with the agreement of Bureau Veritas (certification authority) and the manufacturer. In parallel, a complete check of the port steering gear has been carried out.

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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