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Brittany Ferries Celebrates Another French-Flagged Ship As Connemara Relocates from Ireland Routes

6th November 2019
Replacing the ropax Connemara is the 1,000 passenger capacity Kerry (above), the latest addition to Brittany Ferries fleet. AFLOAT adds the 2,040 vehicle lane metre capacity Kerry is operating Cork-Santander sailings, that opened in 2018 firstly using the also Italian (Visentini) built Connemara which today was welcomed to the shipping register of France.  Replacing the ropax Connemara is the 1,000 passenger capacity Kerry (above), the latest addition to Brittany Ferries fleet. AFLOAT adds the 2,040 vehicle lane metre capacity Kerry is operating Cork-Santander sailings, that opened in 2018 firstly using the also Italian (Visentini) built Connemara which today was welcomed to the shipping register of France. Photo: Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries’ Connemara has been welcomed today to the shipping register of France, creating jobs for French seafarers and bringing to 11 the number of ships of the fleet sailing under the red, white and blue of the tricolour.

Afloat adds that ferry Connemara at the end of October completed its final Cork-Santander sailing, however another ropax Kerry has taken over on the year-round operated Irish-Iberian link by crossing the Bay of Biscay with an arrival to the Spanish port this morning. A previous scheduled sailing was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions which led Kerry vacating the ferry linkspan at Ringaskiddy terminal. Afloat tracked the ropax upriver in Cork Harbour at the Marino Point jetty.

As for the seasonal Cork-Roscoff route, Pont-Aven carried out the final crossing of 2019 departing the Irish port last Saturday. Services resume in March 2020.  

Returning to Connemara, Brittany Ferries add that the ropax originally joined the fleet in May 2018 to open a new route between Cork and Santander – the first ever direct ferry route between Ireland and Spain. The chartered ship (Afloat also adds served Cork-Roscoff) had initially sailed under a European flag, but with a clear commitment that it would be transferred to the French register and crewed by French sailors after two years of operation.

This commitment has now been fulfilled six months early, allowing for the creation of 111 jobs for French crew-members, including 25 officers.

“We’re delighted and proud to raise the French flag aboard Connemara,” says Brittany Ferries CEO Christophe Mathieu. “Despite the current uncertain economic and political waters we’re navigating Brittany Ferries continues its development, and reaffirms its long-term commitment to the French flag, and its position as the biggest employer of French seafarers.”

Following regulatory checks by maritime authorities in Spain, France and UK, Connemara will sail for the first time under the French flag on 13th November, operating a service from Santander in northern Spain to Portsmouth, UK. During December it will link Poole with Cherbourg, covering for fleet mate Barfleur which will undergo an extensive refit. Then in January 2020 Connemara will begin operating services between Portsmouth and Le Havre.

Connemara is at the vanguard of a wave of French-flag ships which will arrive over the next four years as part of a €550 fleet renewal programme.

Honfleur will be delivered from the German FSG shipyard in 2020 and will serve the Portsmouth-Caen route. This is to be followed by three brand new ‘E-Flexer’ class ships to serve longhaul on UK-Spain routes: Galicia in late 2020, Salamanca in 2022, and Santoña in 2023.

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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