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Brittany Ferries Boost Rosslare-Bilbao Route With New Cruise Ferry on Ireland-Spain Link from November

7th April 2022
Ireland-Iberian Boost: Brittany Ferries to introduce a more tourism-oriented ship "Galicia" on the Rosslare-Bilbao route from November of this year. The huge cruise-ferry will operate the Ireland-Spain route, is one of the newest additions to the fleet having been launched in December 2020. Above AFLOAT adds the built in China newbuild 'E-Flexer' class cruiseferry arriving in UK (Solent) waters with an escort tug-water display salute, before launched originally on Portsmouth-Spain services. Ireland-Iberian Boost: Brittany Ferries to introduce a more tourism-oriented ship "Galicia" on the Rosslare-Bilbao route from November of this year. The huge cruise-ferry will operate the Ireland-Spain route, is one of the newest additions to the fleet having been launched in December 2020. Above AFLOAT adds the built in China newbuild 'E-Flexer' class cruiseferry arriving in UK (Solent) waters with an escort tug-water display salute, before launched originally on Portsmouth-Spain services. Credit: Brittany Ferries

It has been confirmed by Brittany Ferries that a more tourism-oriented ship "Galicia" is to be introduced on to their Rosslare - Bilbao route from November of this year.

The huge cruise-ferry (E-Flexer class) is one of the newest additions to the Brittany Ferries fleet having been launched in December 2020.

Brittany Ferries has been central to the dramatic growth which has seen Rosslare Europort becoming Ireland’s leading port for direct European services over the past two years.

Currently the Rosslare-Bilbao route is serviced by the "Connemara" a predominantly freight vessel with limited facilities for holidaymakers. This befitted the company strategy of establishing freight links from Ireland to Spain. Now the route has proved a success however, attention is turning to passenger traffic.

News of the new ship for Rosslare, was announced earlier today 7th April by Brittany Ferries President Jean-Marc Roué, who earlier this year became Honorary Irish Consul in Brittany who, along with the company's Chief Executive, Christophe Mathieu was in Rosslare to meet with the port of Rosslare executives and with local business leaders. He said that the introduction of the "Galicia" was a further indication of the company's long-term commitment to Ireland.

In 2019, Ireland welcomed 431,000 Spanish visitors to the island of Ireland. These visits delivered revenue of €218 million. The introduction of the “Galicia” on the Bilbao to Rosslare route is good news; it will allow Tourism Ireland to highlight ease of access from the greater Bilbao region and to encourage holidaymakers there to come and discover Ireland by car.

The visit to Rosslare followed on from yesterday's visit to the Port of Cork where the company confirmed that its twice-weekly service from Cork to France, which was launched earlier this year will become a permanent feature of the company's sailing schedule.

Brittany Ferries set up its Rosslare - Bilbao route in February 2020. It was set up primarily as a freight route and this was reflected in the choice of the "Connemara" which has limited facilities for holidaymakers. This was at a time when Brexit was seen as having the potential to cause major disruptions for hauliers. The route has been a success in relation to freight but despite the limited facilities on board it began to attract holidaymakers who wished to take their car to Spain, as well as visitors from Northern Spain to Ireland.

Speaking of the decision to introduce the "Galicia" to the route Monsieur Roué said that the "Galicia" which can take up to 1,015 passengers is closer in style to cruise-ferries like the company's flagship the "Pont Aven" with far better facilities for holidaymakers.

“There is no doubt that the Rosslare - Bilbao route has been successful and we are pleased with the way Irish hauliers have embraced it. The "Galicia" will continue to provide a strong freight offering. However our research has indicated that there is a demand there from Irish people wishing to holiday in Spain and the “Galicia" will certainly make for a far more enjoyable experience for them. The job now is to work in partnership with tourism bodies in Ireland and Spain to ensure that holiday makers fill our ships and enrich destinations in both markets.”

Glenn Carr, General Manager Rosslare Europort, welcomed the announcement by Brittany Ferries of Galicia’s introduction, saying “Brittany Ferries are more than just customers of Rosslare Europort, they are our partners in strengthening our direct links between Ireland and Europe. The Galicia will ensure that as well as freight customers, holidaymakers will benefit from this partnership, and provide a more sustainable travel choice for tourism to and from Ireland’s South East and beyond.”

Siobhan McManamy, Tourism Ireland’s Director of Markets, said: “As we restart overseas tourism to Ireland, the announcement that Brittany Ferries will introduce its “Galicia” cruise-ferry on the Bilbao to Rosslare route is very good news and a real vote of confidence in Irish tourism. As an island, the importance of convenient, direct access cannot be overstated – it is absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism. We already work very closely with Brittany Ferries and we look forward to co-operating with them to maximise the promotion of this service to Rosslare. Tourism Ireland is rolling out an extensive programme of promotional activity in Spain throughout 2022. Our message is very simple: Ireland is open for business again and we cannot wait to ‘roll out the green carpet’ and welcome back our Spanish visitors.”

Brian O’Flynn, Head of Ireland’s Ancient East at Fáilte Ireland, said: “The addition of increased capacity from continental Europe to Rosslare by Brittany Ferries will play an important role in tourism recovery by providing greater access into Ireland for overseas visitors. There’s so much to see in Ireland’s Ancient East. Fáilte Ireland has invested significantly in Wexford, Waterford and the South East, and the array of world-class tourist attractions and activities available will encourage international and domestic visitors alike to discover Ireland’s Ancient East, stay longer and, importantly, support jobs and deliver revenue to the local communities in the region.”

Leas-Cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council, Councillor Anthony Connick, also attended today’s event, added: “I am absolutely delighted at today’s announcement that Brittany Ferries is to increase capacity on its sailings from France and Spain to Rosslare in 2023. This announcement demonstrates strong confidence in these routes and the resulting increased visitor traffic will contribute to and support the major investment that is currently taking place in Rosslare Europort. The additional passengers on these ferries are additional visitors to County Wexford. The challenge is to ensure that these visitors do not just pass-through County Wexford, but instead stop and savour everything that our wonderful county has to offer.

The Leas-Cathaoirleach concluded: “I am delighted to see that Visit Wexford has already taken a pro-active role in relation to this welcome development. In 2021, Visit Wexford commenced a digital marketing campaign aimed at these regions designed to encourage these visitors to make County Wexford their holiday destination of choice.”

Published in Brittany Ferries
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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About Brittany Ferries

In 1967 a farmer from Finistère in Brittany, Alexis Gourvennec, succeeded in bringing together a variety of organisations from the region to embark on an ambitious project: the aim was to open up the region, to improve its infrastructure and to enrich its people by turning to traditional partners such as Ireland and the UK. In 1972 BAI (Brittany-England-Ireland) was born.

The first cross-Channel link was inaugurated in January 1973, when a converted Israeli tank-carrier called Kerisnel left the port of Roscoff for Plymouth carrying trucks loaded with Breton vegetables such as cauliflowers and artichokes. The story, therefore, begins on 2 January 1973, 24 hours after Great Britain's entry into the Common Market (EEC).

From these humble beginnings however, Brittany Ferries as the company was re-named quickly opened up to passenger transport, then became a tour operator.

Today, Brittany Ferries has established itself as the national leader in French maritime transport: an atypical leader, under private ownership, still owned by a Breton agricultural cooperative.

Eighty five percent of the company’s passengers are British.

Key Brittany Ferries figures:

  • Turnover: €202.4 million (compared with €469m in 2019)
  • Investment in three new ships, Galicia plus two new vessels powered by cleaner LNG (liquefied natural gas) arriving in 2022 and 2023
  • Employment: 2,474 seafarers and shore staff (average high/low season)
  • Passengers: 752,102 in 2020 (compared with 2,498,354 in 2019)
  • Freight: 160,377 in 2020 (compared with 201,554 in 2019)
  • Twelve ships operating services that connect France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain (non-Covid year) across 14 routes
  • Twelve ports in total: Bilbao, Santander, Portsmouth, Poole, Plymouth, Cork, Rosslare, Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Saint-Malo, Roscoff
  • Tourism in Europe: 231,000 unique visitors, staying 2.6 million bed-nights in France in 2020 (compared with 857,000 unique visitors, staying 8,7 million bed-nights in 2019).

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