French operator Brittany Ferries revealed earlier today that they are in the final stages of negotiating the charter of a Visentini-built vessel from Stena RoRo to “secure 2020 season schedules”. Although the specific vessel is not named, it is likely to be Adria Ferries AF MICHELA which is soon to be replaced by her as-built sister, the current CALIFORNIA STAR (ex STENA FORWARDER). CALIFORNIA STAR was purchased by Adria Ferries earlier this year and is currently on her way to her new operator from Mexico and will be renamed AF CLAUDIA.
AF MICHELA was originally Caronte & Tourist’s CARTOUR before she was sold for service in Vietnam becoming first VINASHIN PRINCE then HOA SEN. She was purchased by Stena RoRo in early 2014 having been laid up for two years as a result of financial trouble at her state-controlled operator and given a comprehensive five-month long refit in China. She was renamed STENA EGERIA and chartered to Bohai Ferry for service between China and Korea. At the end of that charter during 2017, she was chartered to Adria Ferries and given her current name for service between the Italian ports of Ancona and Trieste, and Durres in Albania.
Once the new ship joins the fleet Brittany Ferries plan to use her in place of CONNEMARA on the Cork to Santander and Roscoff routes. This will free up CONNEMARA (which will move to the French flag) for use on Brittany Ferries core routes from England to France and Spain. The current Brittany Ferries flagship PONT AVEN is expected to be absent from service for at least ten weeks during winter to have an engine replaced, while the company are also still awaiting the delivery of their new ferry HONFLEUR from FSG in Germany with no clear revised delivery date yet announced for the vessel.
Brittany Ferries have confirmed that the one year charter of this new vessel means that the trial of the Cork to Santander route has been extended from the original two years by an additional six months. The addition of this latest vessel will mean Brittany Ferries (who are perhaps best known for their ‘cruise ferries’) will have a total of four chartered Ro-Pax ferries in their fleet with the new vessel joining ETRETAT, CONNEMARA, and BAIE DE SEINE. The latter vessel is expected by many to return to owner DFDS in mid-2020 however.
This will be the third Visentini-built vessel chartered by Brittany Ferries from Stena RoRo, joining ETRETAT and CONNEMARA. Although from the same series of vessels, the appearance of AF MICHELA differs from ETRETAT and CONNEMARA as she has the earlier pre-‘FlexBow’ hull and superstructure design employed on the first MERSEY VIKING and LAGAN VIKING of Norse Irish Ferries. She can carry up to 1000 passengers (significantly more than CONNEMARA) but being of the earlier generation of Visentini Ro-Pax has less vehicle space.