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French Operator's 'Brexit-Bypass' New Freight Route Direct from Ireland to 'Brittany' (Tonight)

4th February 2021
MV Armorique of Brittany Ferries which made a first ever arrival to Rosslare Eurport this afternoon approaching the linkspan. AFLOAT also adds Armorique made the repositioning voyage from Caen in Normandy. The 2009 custom built ferry is to launch (today at 8pm/2000hrs) a new 'freight' ferry route to St. Malo, a first to link Wexford and Brittany and which will serve as yet another 'Brexit-bypass' alternative. MV Armorique of Brittany Ferries which made a first ever arrival to Rosslare Eurport this afternoon approaching the linkspan. AFLOAT also adds Armorique made the repositioning voyage from Caen in Normandy. The 2009 custom built ferry is to launch (today at 8pm/2000hrs) a new 'freight' ferry route to St. Malo, a first to link Wexford and Brittany and which will serve as yet another 'Brexit-bypass' alternative. Credit: Rosslare Europort-twitter

Once again another 'Brexit bypass' ferry but by Brittany Ferries begins operating this evening (8pm/2000hrs) on a new 'freight' route of Ireland-France through St. Malo, which is a first to connect Wexford and the French region, writes Jehan Ashmore.

As part of the ongoing developments since the UK left the EU, Irish hauliers have been demanding direct ro-ro routes to marketplaces in mainland Europe. This to avoid Brexit/EU border customs paperwork and potential delays on the UK land-bridge on the Irish Sea and especially through Dover.

According to Brittany Ferries, the first sailing takes place from Rosslare (Europort) Harbour this evening so to transport Irish lorries and their drivers to the Breton town of St Malo. The ferry operator (as of a lunchtime today) had reported that space was available on board. 

The new routes form part of an enhanced 'freight' network to be introduced by Brittany Ferries: they are Rosslare-St. Malo, Rosslare-Roscoff in addition Cork-St. Malo and Cork-Roscoff. In addition Brittany already operate a Rosslare-Bilbao route in northern Spain.

Last year a short-lived Rosslare-Roscoff 'seasonal' (then with passengers) route was inaugurated but was abandoned in favour of the Cherbourg at hauliers preferred the transport hub of Cherbourg, so it appears the former route will prove less popular.

The port of Roscoff, was where the humble origins of the company began by exporting Breton based vegetables to Plymouth. This took place on 2 January 1973 using the freight only Kerisnel that entered service only 24 hours after Great Britain's entry into the common market of the European Economic Community (EEC) now the EU.

As for the Armorique, the cruiseferry's career began in 2009 on the Roscoff-Plymouth route and taking the same name of a predecessor that during the 1970's assisted the company in becoming the largest operator on the western English Channel, Ireland and Spain.

The debut of Armorique tonight follows in the wake of that original Armorique that incidentally was chartered to Irish Ferries and out of Rosslare in 1989 (Afloat will have a reflective piece on this). 

As for these new developments, the Cork-St. Malo route is another 'freight' first for Brittany though a passenger service existed in 1990's. So the boost out of Cork (to Santander closed last year) is consolidated and as the only operator using the southern port to Brittany. There will be three round trips each week, with departures from Cork on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and from Rosslare on Thursdays.

This is the French operator's second response to a Brexit-Bypass solution as they opened a Rosslare-Cherbourg service last month, initially served Cap Finistère.

A ropax, Connemara of the popular 'Visentini' built series is to takeover later this month as Afloat reported before but in this update the sailing is confirmed to be next Monday, and outward of Rosslare.

As detailed below is Amorique's four route network and sailing schedule

Day Depart Time Arrive Time (next day)

Monday Roscoff 20:00 Cork 14:00
Tuesday Cork 20:00 Roscoff 14:00
Wednesday Roscoff 20:00 Rosslare 14:00
Thursday Rosslare 20:00 St Malo 17:10
Friday St Malo 20:00 Cork 15:00
Saturday Cork 18:00 Roscoff 12:40

NOTE: Timetables are subject to weekly variation and change at short notice

As previously highlighted, Armorique is to operate the new route linking Leinster and Brittany, though in 2019 the ferry had stood in covering the 'seasonal' Cork-Roscoff route taking 'holidaymaker's along with motorist cars and freight vehicles.

Since the custom built cruiseferry Armorique entered service, it had usually taken holidaymakers from UK to France having made a debut on the Breton-Cornwall route as alluded above. In addition to relief duties on the English Channel including Portsmouth-Caen as Afloat reported some years back.

Afloat yesterday tracked Armorique having departed from a period of been laid-up in Le Havre. The cruiseferry from there made the short coastal passage to Caen (Ouistreham) in Normandy, where a terminal was custom built for Brittany Ferries to inaugurate in 1986 a new route to Portsmouth.

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!