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Brittany Ferries Orders New Caen and Saint-Malo Ferries

French operator Brittany Ferries has ordered a pair of LNG-Electric hybrid ferries to replace two of the oldest ferries in its fleet. The new ships are based on the Stena E-Flexer concept, like GALICIA and the on order SALAMANCA and SANTOÑA. They will replace 1989-built BRETAGNE on the Portsmouth – Saint-Malo route and NORMANDIE on the Portsmouth – Caen (Ouistreham) service. The Caen vessel is scheduled to be delivered in late-2024 with the Saint-Malo ship arriving about a year later.

The new ferries, dubbed BRETAGNE II and NORMANDIE II by the company at a French press conference yesterday, have been ordered as part of the Breton company’s five year recovery plan. A ten year charter from Stena RoRo has been agreed for both ships, though Brittany Ferries will have the option to purchase after four. Extensive financial funding for the new ships project is being provided by the Brittany and Normandy regions through SOMABRET and SOMANOR, the owners of BRETAGNE and NORMANDIE.

Firsts

These will be the first ferries to be based on Stena’s shorter 194.7m-long E-Flexer design as well as the first to use a hybrid propulsion system. Although conventional main engines are fitted, in this case fuelled by LNG, these won’t always propel the ship via conventional mechanical means.

The propellers of the ship are each connected via a gearbox to both a main engine and and electric motor. When running in main engine only mode, the electric motors run in reverse and charge onboard batteries. These batteries can be used to power the motors when required or to power onboard electrical systems. The electric motors can be used to either assist the main engines, or in standalone mode without engine assistance for complete emissions free operation if charge is sufficient. This is a more fuel efficient method of propulsion than the usual method of solely driving the propellers directly from the engines via gearboxes. It is also possible to drive both propellers with a single engine without any motor assistance. Both vessels will be fitted with two 13,740 kW main engines.

A diagram explain how the hybrid system on Brittany Ferries shorter E-Flexer ferries will work and its different modes. Image: Brittany Ferries.
A diagram explain how the hybrid system on Brittany Ferries shorter E-Flexer ferries will work and its different modes. Image: Brittany Ferries.

In a first for the English Channel, the ships will also be able to run partially or completely on battery power while manoeuvring in port. A shore power connection will also allow the ships electrical systems to run from shoreside electricity when this is available while in port instead of using onboard generators. This means that the ships could be truly emission free while alongside but still have fully functional heating, lighting, air conditioning, and electrical systems.

Fleet renewal “not a choice”

According to Christophe Mathieu, CEO Brittany Ferries:

“Fleet renewal is not a choice for Brittany Ferries; it is an imperative to secure our future,”

“Our customers rightly demand cleaner, greener vessels and our port partners expect us to be good neighbours. Furthermore, we will certainly face tighter regulation in the years ahead. The future of our company depends upon our ability to rise to the challenge today, to prepare for tomorrow. That is why I am so proud to announce these new vessels.”

“They bring with them a host of innovations just as Bretagne and Normandie did when they were launched. Both vessels have served us well and we are grateful for the support of the regions that bear their name. They are much loved by customers and crew, but now is the time for us to look to the future and to plan for a brighter future, even as we battle the crisis we face today.”  

Christophe Mathieu, CEO Brittany Ferries

More cabins, less passengers

Both new vessels will provide more passenger cabins than the vessels they replace in what appears to be a deliberate shift from airline style reclining seats by the company. While the passenger capacity of BRETAGNE and NORMANDIE is higher than that on the new vessels, the reality according to Brittany Ferries, is that passenger capacity is often limited by overall cabin capacity.

Reflecting this, BRETAGNE’s replacement will offer a total of 386 passenger cabins. This is an increase from the 358 offered on the current ship despite a reduction in overall passenger capacity. Included in this will be an additional 79 premium commodore class cabins and an additional 18 family cabins. Each family cabin will have capacity for up to six people.

NORMANDIE’s replacement has less cabin accommodation than the first new build with more space provided for vehicles instead, reflecting the different demands of her route. Even still, there will be a total of 30 additional cabins offered on the new ferry. Both vessels will also offer additional pet friendly cabins over the ships they replace. Further details are expected to be released in the months ahead.

NORMANDIE. Image: Brittany Ferries
NORMANDIE. Image: Brittany Ferries

Facilities

Despite the reduction in theoretical passenger capacity to around 1,300 people, the new ships will still offer a great range of passenger facilities. In addition to a choice of places to eat and drink, a large duty free shop will also be provided. Brittany Ferries sees duty free as a potentially important additional source of revenue. Both vessels will also be equipped with a C-Club premium lounge. Again, further details of the passenger facilities are expected to be released in the months ahead

There will also be a significant increase in vehicle deck space on both vessels. This reflects the physical growth in passenger cars over the past three decades. Brittany Ferries uses the example of the mini, which it says is now 25% larger than it was when BRETAGNE was launched. The company also plans to offer onboard charging for electric cars, despite the challenges of adding such a high additional electrical load to a vessel designed to be fuel efficient. The new ships will also offer more space for freight and motorhomes, with the garages built both higher and longer than those on the existing ships.

Cotentin to be rebuilt

As with the other E-Flexers, the new hybrid Brittany Ferries vessels will be built in China for Stena RoRo. The Brittany Ferries order means that a total of 11 E-Flexers have now been ordered.

Brittany Ferries fleet renewal plan is not solely based on E-Flexers, however, though the company has now committed to five of the class in two different lengths.

According to FerryShipingNews, the company has confirmed that it still plans to covert its freight ferry COTENTIN to a Ro-Pax ferry. Although no timeline has been given, the rebuilt COTENTIN will replace the 1992-built BARFLEUR on the Poole – Cherbourg route.

COTENTIN. Image: Brittany Ferries
COTENTIN. Image: Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries E-Flexer comparison

 GaliciaSalamanca / SantonaBretagne ReplacementNormandie Replacement
Passengers1,0151,0151,2901,310
Cabins343340386220
Freight unitsUp to 155 (3,100 lane metres)2,758 lane metresUp to 63(approx. 1,100 lm)Up to 120(approx, 2,100 lm)
PropulsionDiesel mechanical (with exhaust gas scrubbers)LNG mechanicalLNG electric hybridLNG electric hybrid
Engines2 x 12,600 kW Caterpillar MaK 12 M43 diesel engines (upgradeable to dual-fuel)2 x 13,740 kW Wärtsilä 12V46DF dual-fuel engines2 x 13,740 kW dual-fuel engines (likely Wärtsilä)2 x 13,740 kW dual-fuel engines (likely Wärtsilä)
Service Speed22 kts23 kts23 kts23 kts
Delivery20202022 / 2023Late-2025Late-2024
Please note that the specification of yet to be completed ships may be subject to change.

Article updated on 22.07.21 to clarify how the hybrid propulsion system works.

Steven Tarbox

Steven is a former retail professional and a ferry writer and photographer. He created NI Ferry Site as a web design project in 2014 to be a news and information source for everyone with an interest in ferries, with a particular focus on Northern Ireland. Steven is the editor of the website and looks after all of the technical aspects.
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