Covid Travel Restrictions Force Brittany Ferries To Extend Ferry Cancellations

By: Gary Andrews
Last updated:
Brittany Ferries GALICIA seen during October 2020. Brittany Ferries
Brittany Ferries GALICIA seen during October 2020. Brittany Ferries

Cross-Channel ferry and holiday company Brittany Ferries is extending the suspension of some services operating between the UK, France and Spain.

The company has been forced to do so due the continued stringent travel restrictions for passengers on both sides of the Channel. Only essential travel is currently permitted, and there is little prospect of this easing in the near future.

Four ships that are currently laid-up, were due to resume service in late March, but will now not return to traffic until mid-May at the earliest.

What is suspended and what is running?

Under the revised plans, the following ships and routes will not operate as planned from 22 March:

BARFLEURPoole to Cherbourg
BRETAGNEPortsmouth to St Malo
Portsmouth to Bilbao
Portsmouth to Santander
Plymouth to Roscoff
Plymouth to Santander
Cork to Roscoff

In addition, the NORMANDIE EXPRESS will remain laid-up at Le Havre for now. The fast craft hasn’t been scheduled, so far, to operate this year. That said, normally the high speed Portsmouth – Cherbourg service only operates over the summer period, typically May to September.

The following ships and routes will, however, continue to operate as scheduled, to accommodate those with essential travel requirements and to allow freight to flow freely:

ARMORIQUERoute to be confirmed
Rosslare to Cherbourg
Rosslare to Bilbao
COTENTINPortsmouth to Le Havre*
Portsmouth to Santander
Portsmouth to Cherbourg
MONT ST MICHELPortsmouth to Caen
NORMANDIEPortsmouth to Caen*
MN PELICANPoole to Bilbao*

*denotes freight-only service

Poole – Cherbourg was re-started at the beginning January with the COTENTIN to facilitate a three-month British Government, Brexit freight capacity contract. With that completing at the end of March, she will move to Portsmouth – Le Havre to replace the ETRETAT, which is being handed back to Stena RoRo at the end of her charter contract. The Portsmouth – Le Havre Brexit capacity contract is for six months.

ARMORIQUE was recently deployed on additional “Brexit-busting” freight services connecting Rosslare and Cork with the Brittany ports of St. Malo and Roscoff. These routes were due to run until late-March when ARMORIQUE began her usual Plymouth – Roscoff service and new regular weekly Cork – Roscoff roundtrip. However, it is clear from today’s news that Brittany Ferries is now finalising plans for the optimal use of the vessel in light of the current Covid/Brexit situation.

CAP FINISTÈRE. Image: Brittany Ferries.
CAP FINISTÈRE. Image: Brittany Ferries.

Supporting affected customers

In the coming days, Brittany Ferries will contact customers who hold bookings on affected sailings, to offer alternative travel or a refund.

Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries’ CEO comments on the extension to service suspensions.

“Naturally we very much regret any inconvenience that these changes will cause our customers,

“We had hoped for a return to service for all our routes in mid-March, but the reality is that most people are simply unable to travel at this time. Booking levels are extremely low and we are relying on loans to carry us through this difficult period. It is therefore simply not viable to run loss-making routes at this time.”

“But we continue to monitor the health and travel situation in all our markets – UK, Ireland, France and Spain. As soon as our customers can travel again, we will be there for them. We are also pushing governments to set out a pragmatic, co-ordinated and clear roadmap to safely re-open travel as soon as the health situation permits. We believe that the ramp-up of vaccines means that this re-opening could be considered sooner rather than later.”
Brittany Ferries' CEO Christophe Mathieu. Image: Brittany Ferries.
Brittany Ferries’ CEO Christophe Mathieu. Image: Brittany Ferries.

Existing and intending Brittany Ferries customers are recommended to stay in touch with the company’s regularly updated “Coronavirus travel updates” section of their website.

Freight emphasis

Brittany Ferries says that it will remain a predominantly freight-only service for now. However, whilst grateful for the support of freight customers and drivers, only 20% of its annual turnover comes from freight traffic. The company has, however, recently reported a major increase in the volume of unaccompanied freight carried.

With around 80% of annual income generated by holidaymakers. it’s very easy to see why so many vessels will remain laid-up for now.

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

Securing a future

In 2020, Brittany Ferries secured a €117 million loan from French banks to carry it through the most difficult period in its history. To ensure the long-term viability of routes and services, it has therefore been forced to take tough decisions on costs throughout the crisis.

Brittany Ferries say that they remain committed to serving passengers, freight and supporting businesses throughout the regions it serves, and thanks everyone for their patience and messages of support.

Polite notice: While we welcome our articles being shared, we request that links to this website are provided rather than other approaches. Thank you (NI Ferry Site team).