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By-Pass Brexit Sees Brittany Ferries Plan for 'Another' Ireland-France Freight Route

28th January 2021
Another By-Pass Brexit Route? Operator, Brittany Ferries, is considering its options as plans are in progress for a further Ireland-France freight route connecting with the Breton ports of Roscoff and St Malo using the ro-pax cruiseferry Armorique. Could both Cork and Rosslare be the benefactors? As for Armorique, AFLOAT has tracked to Le Havre where it is laid-up along with Bretagne, the first 'cruiseferry' to operate the Cork-Roscoff route in 1989. Another By-Pass Brexit Route? Operator, Brittany Ferries, is considering its options as plans are in progress for a further Ireland-France freight route connecting with the Breton ports of Roscoff and St Malo using the ro-pax cruiseferry Armorique. Could both Cork and Rosslare be the benefactors? As for Armorique, AFLOAT has tracked to Le Havre where it is laid-up along with Bretagne, the first 'cruiseferry' to operate the Cork-Roscoff route in 1989. Credit: Brittany Ferries

With fallout of post-Brexit, demand from hauliers for direct ro-ro freight routes has led to 20 interventions by shipping companies notably between Ireland-France and another new route may be added to the fast-changing ferry scene, writes Jehan Ashmore.

According to Brittany Ferries, plans are in progress for a further freight route, this would involve connecting two Breton ports, Roscoff and St. Malo with Ireland. The aim of the French operator is to finalise schedules and begin operations as early as next month using Ro-Pax vessel Armorique (above) which Afloat adds operated the Cork-Roscoff 'seasonal' service while standing in for routine cruiseferry Pont-Aven in 2019 due to repairs required.

A growing number of haulage companies are shipping goods using unaccompanied trailers. Brittany Ferries says demand is rising, and the ports it serves on the western English Channel in France, the UK and Ireland are set-up to receive these loads. It believes more companies will look west in the months to come, and it has urged hauliers and logistics companies to get in touch.

“Things like negative Covid tests for drivers are certainly helping drive the trend for unaccompanied loads,” commented Simon Wagstaff Brittany Ferries freight director. “However, there are other financial benefits in going driverless. We know of one large haulage operation in Ireland, for example, that has organised reciprocal arrangements with another in Spain, dropping off and picking up trailers for each other. That’s a cost-effective way of doing business.”

In 2018 Brittany Ferries launched the first ever direct Ireland-Spain route, Cork-Santander, however Afloat adds the link was abandoned in favour of switching both Irish and Spanish ports. This led to another new Ireland-Iberian link, the Rosslare Europort-Bilbao route (launched almost a year ago) that predominantly serves freight traffic.

Just 10 days ago, Brittany brought forward the opening of another service out of Rosslare to Cherbourg, initially operated by Cap Finistere (see Afloat photo caption yesterday) however in mid-February to be replaced by ro-pax Connamara which launched the Cork-Santander route and followed by the Kerry.

The earlier than scheduled launch of the new Wexford-Normandy connection is to enable Irish, French and Spanish hauliers seek an alternative to the UK land-bridge, with the cost, time and administrative burden that this now brings.

In a normal non-Covid year, the French operator handles around 210,000 freight units using a twelve-strong ferry fleet which also operates on the English Channel and Bay of Biscay. The ferries serve Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, St. Malo and Roscoff in France, Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth in the UK, Santander and Bilbao in Spain.

The Irish ports used by Brittany Ferries, saw Cork first served in 1978 to open the Roscoff route and last year's debut out of Rosslare 'Europort', where the south-east port (in 1990 was 'branded' given its suffix) is currently very much centre-stage.

Published in Brittany Ferries, 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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