How do you get your head out of the water? Having sailed for fifty years, Brittany Ferries is used to storms. But for nearly a year and a half, the company, headquartered in Roscoff (Finistère), has been plunged into murky waters with a double crisis that impacts it. The coronavirus pandemic has of course brought it to a standstill, like all players in maritime transport, with only 750,000 passengers transported last year, against 2.5 million in 2019. If that was not enough, the Brexit has come to plague the company even more, which provides cross-Channel links from Brittany and Normandy.
The sunshine will not be for this summer either because the season is already spoiled with the quarantine established in the United Kingdom for any Briton, even vaccinated, arriving from France. “The summer season will not be good at all”, sighs Jean-Marc Roué, chairman of the supervisory board of Brittany Ferries, counting on 350,000 passengers transported, against 500,000 in 2020. “Just last week, 13,000 passengers canceled their crossing due to the new restrictions, ”he underlines.
Two ships powered by liquefied natural gas soon to be delivered
In this slump, Brittany Ferries however avoided the sinking thanks to the support of the public authorities which multiplied the aid to try to save this French flagship, which employs close to 2,500 employees. The company also wants to look to the future after these two dark years with a five-year recovery plan. This involves, in particular, renewing its fleet with ships that will pollute less in the future.
This transition is already underway with the commissioning at the end of 2020 of the Galicia, a ship that is more fuel efficient and emits less CO2, which provides cruises to Spain. Two other ships, the Salamanca and the Santoña, will also enter service in 2022 and 2023 between England and Spain with the particularity of being powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).
“Respond to the challenges of decarbonization”
While maritime transport is criticized from all sides for its ecological impact, Brittany Ferries still plans to accentuate this environmental shift with the announcement on Tuesday of the order for two hybrid ships that will be powered by LNG and will be equipped with electric batteries. . Brought to replace the Brittany and the Normandie, they will provide the Saint-Malo / Portsmouth and Caen-Ouistreham / Portsmouth connections by 2024-2025.
“There are decarbonisation issues that must be addressed and these new boats are preparing the future”, underlines Loïg Chesnais-Girard, president of the Brittany region. Built in China, for “reasons of delay”, according to Jean-Marc Roué, the two ships will cost the company 220 million euros. On the replacement of the current one Brittany, Brittany Ferries hopes to welcome between 35,000 and 40,000 additional passengers each year.