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Major Changes As Brittany Ferries to Lay-Up Ships, Cuts Services As Demand Slumps After UK Quarantine

19th August 2020
Major changes as Brittany Ferries is to lay-up two cruiseferries among them Armorique (above) currently serving Roscoff-Plymouth, due to a slump in passenger demand notably arising from the UK's Covid-19 quarantine from France. AFLOAT adds Armorique is scheduled to boost capacity on the Cork-Roscoff route (albeit in 2021) running in tandem with flagship Pont-Aven currently maintaining 'seasonal' sailings linking Ireland and France and remains unaffected with these latest operational changes elsewhere. Also above in French waters is a pilot cutter. Major changes as Brittany Ferries is to lay-up two cruiseferries among them Armorique (above) currently serving Roscoff-Plymouth, due to a slump in passenger demand notably arising from the UK's Covid-19 quarantine from France. AFLOAT adds Armorique is scheduled to boost capacity on the Cork-Roscoff route (albeit in 2021) running in tandem with flagship Pont-Aven currently maintaining 'seasonal' sailings linking Ireland and France and remains unaffected with these latest operational changes elsewhere. Also above in French waters is a pilot cutter. Photo: Brittany Ferries

Major changes at Brittany Ferries have forced the operator to introduce a reduction in services following the imposition of (Covid-19) quarantine on travellers returning to the UK from France and the effect this has had on existing reservations as well as forward demand.

This has led Brittany Ferries from today confirming changes to scheduled services (as outlined further below).

The news follows a weekend in which 35,000 passengers (English Channel routes) either cancelled or delayed their travel plans with the company. Forward demand for autumn sailings is also extremely weak.

As a consequence, the company has been forced to change its schedules, with the first changes applying from the end of August. The following ships and route amendments have now been confirmed:

  • Brittany Ferries Armorique will be laid up from 31 August. This cruiseferry currently serves the Plymouth-Roscoff route (which Afloat adds notably launched the ferry company in 1973 and five years later the Cork-Roscoff route was introduced) 
  • Brittany Ferries Pont-Aven will replace Armorique on the Plymouth to Roscoff route from 10 September with three return trips per week. Pont-Aven will also continue to operate one return sailing from Plymouth to Santander and from Roscoff to Cork during the week. (Afloat adds the Irish 'weekend' seasonal service is unaffected) noting for the 2021 season there will be more capacity along with a new Rosslare-Cherbourg route).
  • Brittany Ferries Bretagne will be laid up from 7 September. She currently serves the Portsmouth to St Malo route.
  • Brittany Ferries Etretat will not resume crossings, as planned: Connemara will continue to operate the Cherbourg and Le Havre rotations from Portsmouth, but will no longer serve Spain.

“We warned over the weekend that schedule changes were likely, as quarantine measures have led to a significant drop in demand for our services,” said Christophe Mathieu, director general Brittany Ferries. “This is not something we want to do. However, in the context of a terrible summer season we have no choice but to consolidate sailings that, by virtue of lack of passenger numbers, are uneconomic to run. These extraordinary decisions are regrettable and we apologise in advance to all those whose travel plans will be disrupted.”

Around 50,000 passengers with existing bookings will be affected by the schedule changes. Brittany Ferries apologises in advance for the inconvenience and will do all it can to accommodate displaced customers on other services.

The call centre is expected to be very busy in the days ahead. Passengers are therefore asked to wait for notification of any change to their booking and – where possible – to make alternative arrangements via the My Booking facility on the operators UK website here.

Afloat adds for any further information /Covid-19 updates on Ireland-France routes visit the Brittany Ferries Irish website here.

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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