Cork is losing its only ferry connection to Spain as Brittany Ferries shifts services to Rosslare in response to hauliers’ calls for quicker access to Dublin.
Brittany Ferries said today its twice-weekly sailings between Cork and the Spanish port of Santander will switch to a new Rosslare-Bilbao service effective February 28. It is offering ticket refunds or compensation for transfer costs for people already booked on cancelled Cork sailings.
Chief executive Christophe Mathieu said Brittany Ferries' two-year “trial window” offering a Cork link with Spain had proved economically unviable.
“This was not a decision we took lightly and follows extensive consultation with our freight customers who sought better road connections and reduced driving distances,” Mr Mathieu said.
“While passenger numbers have been encouraging, the reality is that freight numbers - which are key to route viability - were not sufficiently robust,” he said.
Cork business leaders said they regretted Brittany Ferries’ move, which would reduce options for Munster-based hauliers.
“This surprising decision by Brittany Ferries is very disappointing,” the Port of Cork said in a statement. “However we will continue to pursue other options for linking Cork and northern Spain.”
Cork Chamber also expressed disappointment. “However we encourage operators to consider future options, particularly in the context of direct connectivity post-Brexit,” it added.
Aidan Flynn, general manager of the Freight Transport Association of Ireland, said the move would do little to address the growing need for more and faster ferry links to the European mainland to cope with Brexit.
“Creating new routes rather than replacing existing ones needs to be a priority for the ports of Ireland,” Mr Flynn told the Irish Independent. “We particularly need to create more options on the south and southeast coast for the freight distribution and logistics sector in Ireland.”
He said Ireland-Spain routes would be important for expanding and developing new markets – but increased connectivity with France was critical.
“Brexit stipulates that we need more direct routes to continental Europe, especially with Le Havre and Calais, to protect the competitiveness of the international haulage sector in Ireland,” he said.
Brittany Ferries said its weekly service connecting Cork and the French port of Roscoff would continue unaltered. That seasonal service runs from March to October and carries around 100,000 people annually, mostly tourists.
Glenn Carr, general manager of Rosslare Europort, said the Rosslare-Bilbao link “will be attractive for trade and tourism alike”.
“We very much welcome that this service is being launched because of demand from freight customers, due to Rosslare’s strategic position and access to key markets,” Mr Carr said.
“Brittany Ferries will also benefit from our €25m investment in port facilities, infrastructure and technology as part of the port’s strategic plan. We look forward to working closely with Brittany Ferries to ensuring the success of their new service.”
Brittany Ferries says it plans to include a Roscoff stop-off once a week on its Rosslare-Bilbao services, which will offer travellers a new option for reaching France by sea.