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Newbuild E-Flexer Pair Mark Double-Celebration for Brittany Ferries

12th September 2019
The 215-metre long hull of Galicia was majestically floated in China at the AVIC Weihai shipyard in Shandong. The 215-metre long hull of Galicia was majestically floated in China at the AVIC Weihai shipyard in Shandong. Photo: Brittany Ferries

Operator Brittany Ferries has marked two key milestones in its €550 million fleet renewal programme which includes a pair of E-Flexer newbuilds destined for UK-Spain routes. 

At the AVIC Weihai shipyard in Shandong, eastern China, shipyard workers and Brittany Ferries teams gathered to celebrate the launch of cruise-ferry Galicia, and the start of building work for sister ship Salamanca.

The 215-metre long hull of Galicia was majestically floated out at a traditional Chinese ship-launching ceremony. Then, alongside in the building dock the very first steel was cut for fleet mate Salamanca marking the beginning of the ship’s construction.

When complete, the two ships will serve Brittany Ferries’ long-haul routes connecting Portsmouth to Santander and Bilbao in northern Spain, with Galicia due to enter service in late 2020 followed by Salamanca in spring 2022. They will be joined a year later by a third sister ship to be named Santoña.

“It gives me great pleasure to be here in China today (11 Sept) to celebrate the launch of Galicia and the start of work on Salamanca,” said Brittany Ferries CEO Christophe Mathieu. “Our customers rightly expect our fleet to be modern, comfortable and efficient, with the promise of minimal environmental impact from operations and we can only achieve this aim with the very best, innovative new ships. Galicia and Salamanca are perfectly suited to our long-haul Spanish operations, and will allow us to further enhance our service to holidaymakers and hauliers taking advantage of these routes.

“As a French company operating ferries between the UK, France, Spain and Ireland, we are, for sure, concerned by the current political uncertainty in Europe. But we are certain of the course that Brittany Ferries will follow in the years to come. And these brand new ships are tangible evidence – in steel – of our confidence and optimism looking ahead”.

The three 42,200-tonne ‘E-Flexer’ class ships will be amongst the biggest in Brittany Ferries’ fleet, measuring 215 metres long, with around three kilometres of space for cars and lorries.

Not only will they be capacious, comfortable and efficient – they’ll also be better for the environment. Whilst Galicia will be fitted with funnel exhaust gas cleaning systems, Salamanca and Santoña will be amongst the first ferries of their type to be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) offering significant environmental advantages over traditional marine fuels, burning more efficiently and producing no sulphur, virtually no particulates and 95 per cent less nitrogen dioxide.

The company’s very first LNG-powered ship Honfleur currently under construction in Flensberg, Germany (albeit delayed see story) will enter service on the busy Portsmouth to Caen route in 2020.

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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