Brittany Ferries Reports Ireland – Spain Ferry Traffic Bounce

By: Gary Andrews
CONNEMARA and MN PELICAL at Bilbao. Image: Brittany Ferries
CONNEMARA and MN PELICAL at Bilbao. Image: Brittany Ferries

French-owned ferry company, Brittany Ferries has reported a huge 32 percent increase in freight on their Rosslare – Bilbao route.

The route started in February 2020 when the previous Cork – Santander service was re-imagined to serve the current ports. At the time this was said to be a response to haulier feedback and has clearly paid off.

In figures just revealed, 7,874 units were carried by Brittany Ferries on the Rosslare – Bilbao route in the first eight months of 2021. This is 70 percent or 3,246 units up on 2020 figures. The company is now carrying more than 1,000 freight units a month on the only direct ropax ferry service between Ireland and Spain.

Since April, the route has consistently carried in excess of 1,000 trucks and trailers per month.

Additionally, the number of companies using the service has grown by 70% since 2018. The route has clearly become an important artery for hauliers and logistics operators. Passengers and their vehicles are also carried on the route.

Unaccompanied Growth

Mirroring wider trends across the industry, the number of unaccompanied loads on the route have increased by 46 percent in just a year. Seatruck Ferries has also highlighted that driver shortages are making many hauliers question the value of having their HGV drivers on ferries.

Several companies are said to have set up “twinning operations” with partners on the opposite side of the Bay of Biscay and Irish Sea. Irish hauliers can then pick up unaccompanied loads arriving from Spain, with Spanish hauliers picking up loads arriving from Ireland.

CONNEMARA.  Image: Brittany Ferries
CONNEMARA. Image: Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries’ Freight Director, Simon Wagstaff commenting on the figures, said;

“Brittany Ferries has a long history of testing the marketplace with new routes, new ships and new ideas. It wasn’t the quickest start for Ireland Spain, but we stuck with it because we could see the way the world was turning.

“Firstly we knew we had to facilitate what became known as the Brexit by-pass, which meant presenting alternatives to the UK land-bridge for hauliers in Ireland and on the Iberian Peninsula. Secondly, the arrival of Covid coincided with a move towards unaccompanied loads. As a company, we were ideally set up to serve this growing trend in the industry.”

The Rosslare Bilbao service operates twice week in each direction, with sailings from Rosslare on Wednesdays and Fridays, and from Bilbao on Thursdays and Sunday. Freight timetables can be found here.

Brittany Ferries Press Release 28 September 2021

The route has been operated by the CONNEMARA since November 2020 and she also operates a weekly Rosslare to Cherbourg roundtrip.

The Rosslare – Bilbao service was covered by the CAP FINISTÈRE during the 2021 refit period. That vessel is currently facing an uncertain future, not featuring in any Brittany Ferries schedules beyond the end of October. Her place on Portsmouth – Bilbao sailings will be taken by the newbuild E-flexer SALAMANCA from Spring 2022.

Brittany Ferries KERRY. Brittany Ferries / Jose Luis Diaz Campa.
Brittany Ferries KERRY. The first vessel to operate the Rosslare – Bilbao route. Image: Brittany Ferries / Jose Luis Diaz Campa.

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