As Irish Ferries ramps up its Dublin to Cherbourg service with the arrival of the new purpose-built WB Yeats, Brittany Ferries is also positioning itself for a post- Brexit world with an EU direct into EU service from Ireland avoiding the UK.
The Cork to Santander route is the first direct link by sea connecting Ireland and Spain. The twice weekly sailings will cut 1,200kms off the road journey for many hauliers currently opting for a land bridge via the UK.
Using the Visentini-built RoPax Connemara, ex-Norman Asturias, the 26-hour service runs from Cork on Wednesdays and Fridays and returns from Santander on Thursdays and Sundays. The ship is on charter from Stena RoRo, initially for two years, and operates under the Brittany Ferries’ ‘économie’ brand, carrying 2,255 freight lane metres in addition to just 500 passengers and 200 cars.
Brittany Ferries has meanwhile confirmed the charter of a second new cruise-ferry to join that announced late last year for its long-haul UK to Spain routes. Both ships will be built at the Avic International Weihai shipyard in China, with the first arriving in time for the 2021 holiday season.
The new ships are being chartered from Stena RoRo, part of the Swedish company’s new generation of state-of-the-art ‘E-Flexer’ vessels. The first vessel comes from Stena’s initial order for four vessels, while the second comes from the options that Stena held on a further four that also includes the new DFDS ship for Dover. Both will be gas-ready and promise a combination of luxury and Spanish style. “These ships will be like twins,” added Catherine Querné, Brittany Ferries strategy director. “Outwardly, they will have the same dimensions and shape, but they will be dressed very differently. And of course, each will have its own unique personality.”
The latest investment underlines the company’s commitment to Portsmouth and to its Spanish routes. It comes after work began this spring on the new LNG (liquefied natural gas) cruise ferry Honfleur to serve its Portsmouth – Caen crossing. Like the Honfleur, which arrives next year, both the chartered ships will Portsmouth-based, registered under the French flag and will be crewed by French seafarers.
Together, the three ships will spearhead a wide-ranging, five-year fleet-renewal and modernisation programme worth around £400m. Measuring 42,400 tonnes and 215 metres length overall, the new vessels will be the longest in Brittany Ferries’ fleet. There will be plenty for passengers on board. Three spacious passenger decks will host boutiques, a café, restaurant, bar and an exclusive club lounge. Around 300 en-suite cabins will cater for approximately 1,000 passengers and many will be adapted for customers with disabilities, as well as those travelling with their pet dog or cat (Brittany Ferries carries around 70,000 annually).