Brittany Ferries are to offer two brand new services out of Rosslare Europort beginning in the coming weeks.
The French ferry operator is to establish a new route from Rosslare to Bilbao in Spain which will run twice weekly from February 28. They will also operate a weekly Rosslare to Roscoff sailing during peak season which runs from March to October.
This comes after the company axed their Cork to Santander route after just two years as a result of low freight numbers. The company has vowed that all customers who had already booked on the Cork route will be accommodated on the new Rosslare sailing.
'This really is a major vote of confidence in Rosslare,' said Fine Gael Minister Paul Kehoe. 'It shows how the port is a vital gateway to Europe and it also means that four main shipping lines now operate out of the port. I want to pay tribute to the staff at Rosslare Europort including General Manager Glenn Carr. Despite legitimate concerns about Brexit, this shows that Rosslare is still as well-placed as ever in terms of attracting investment.'
Having worked on the deal behind the scenes for some time, Mr Carr was in buoyant mood as the deal was announced.
'It's great to welcome Brittany Ferries alongside our existing operators Irish Ferries and Stena Line,' he said. 'Both of the new routes will be extremely beneficial from both a freight and tourism point of view and at the Europort we will now cater for a total of four services per week to France.'
'We were able to accommodate Brittany Ferries' schedule within our existing infrastructure and as a result of this announcement, we will be recruiting additional staff to work in the Europort and I'm sure there will be several auxiliary jobs created.'
Mr Carr pointed out that bringing the new ferry operator to the Wexford port is part of a major plan which will see an investment of €25-50million in the coming years.
'Negotiations have been taking place on this for a long time,' he continued. 'It's a big decision for a ferry operator and a big investment, but I'm very confident that the market is here. It's important that the market supports the route now as it offers the opportunity for the de-congestion of Dublin port. Connectivity is vital and given the road infrastructure which now leads to Rosslare, we're ideally placed going forward.'
Mr Carr says that further negotiations are ongoing with another ferry operator with a view to creating a service to Zebrugge in Belgium.
'I think there's a very strong case to be made for a twice weekly service to Zebrugge,' he said. 'Negotiations are ongoing behind the scenes and it's very early days, but I'd be hopeful that it's something we can get over the line.'