Brittany Ferries

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Brittany Ferries
Private company
Industry Passenger transportation
Freight transportation
Founded 1972
Founder Alexis Gourvennec
Headquarters Roscoff, France
Area served
France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain
Key people
Jean-Marc Roué
Christophe Mathieu
Frédéric Pouget
Corinne Vintner
Jean-François Jacob
Mike Bevens
Revenue Increase €376.5 million (2014)
Total assets €367.4 million (2014)
Owner BAI Bretagne Angleterre Irlande S.A.
Number of employees
Decrease 2,451 (2014 average - high and low seasons)[1]

Brittany Ferries is a French shipping company that operates a fleet of ferries and cruiseferries between France and United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain, and between United Kingdom and Spain.


1970s and 1980s[edit]

In January 1973, following the provision of the deep-water port at Roscoff, the company commenced operations at the instigation of Alexis Gourvennec, when the existing ferry companies showed reluctance about providing a service from Roscoff to Plymouth. The company began sailings between Roscoff in Brittany and Plymouth in the South West of England, using the freight ferry Kerisnel. The company's primary aim at that time was to provide a service to Brittany's cauliflower and artichoke farmers, giving them easier access to the British market. In the summer of 1973, Vedettes Armoricaines operated a service between Plymouth and Roscoff using the passenger only ferry Poseidon which they had acquired from Stena Line, and Brittany Ferries acted as the agents in the United Kingdom for this service.[2] In 1974 Kerisnel was replaced by Penn-Ar-Bed, which carried both passengers and vehicles. Such was the success of the Plymouth-Roscoff service that a larger ship, the Cornouailles, was ordered and entered service in 1977. New routes were developed in the late 1970s, and the company continued to grow. Routes to Saint-Malo, Santander, and Cork in Ireland were operated by the Armorique and the Prince of Brittany, and in the early 1980s a second ship was chartered for the Saint-Malo route. The Goelo, an attractive-looking vessel, left the fleet in preparation for the new ship to be introduced in 1982. The Quiberon replaced the Armorique for the Santander and Cork services, allowing her to operate alongside the Prince of Brittany on the Saint-Malo route, while the Cornouailles maintained the original routes from Roscoff.

The Benodet operated between Plymouth and Roscoff for just one year before being redeployed as part of Brittany Ferries' new venture, Channel Island Ferries. The Tregastel replaced her and continued on the Plymouth to Roscoff route until 1989. The Cork route was operated by Tregastel and Quiberon, later to be joined by Celtic Pride, operated by Swansea Cork Ferries, supplying a midweek Cork-Roscoff round trip.

In 1985 Brittany Ferries further expanded by buying Truckline Ferries, which operated freight-only ships Coutances and Purbeck between Poole in United Kingdom and Cherbourg in France.

In 1986, Brittany Ferries introduced the Duc de Normandie, which operated a new route from Caen to the increasingly popular port of Portsmouth. The former Roscoff ship Cornouailles was transferred to the Truckline Ferries route from Poole to Cherbourg, introducing passenger services on this route. This service was also very successful, and new ships were introduced over the next few years. Meanwhile, a second (chartered) ship, the Gotland was installed on the Caen service in 1988, as well as a new Truckline Ferries vessel, the Normandie Shipper in 1989. In addition to the Portsmouth-Caen services, from 1986 a Truckline Ferries ferry ran from Poole to Caen during the summer to cope with the seasonal demand on Brittany's standard ships by holiday makers. However, the introduction of larger ships in 2006, and the sale of the original "truckliners", meant that this service was discontinued.

In 1989, the cruise ferry Bretagne was introduced on the Santander and Cork routes. She displaced the Quiberon, which transferred to the Roscoff route. Tregastel replaced Cornouailles on the Poole-Cherbourg Truckline Ferries passenger route along with Corbiere (formerly the Benodet who had been transferred to Channel Island Ferries). Cornouailles was sold to British Channel Island Ferries and was renamed Havelet. A second-hand purchase was introduced on the St Malo route, the Duchesse Anne. which was to run alongside the Armorique. This allowed the Prince of Brittany to be transferred to the Caen route under its new name the Reine Mathilde.


At the end of 1991, the Reine Mathilde left the fleet ready for the introduction of the new cruise ferry the Normandie on the Caen route. The Corbiere and Tregastel also stepped down in preparation for the new Truckline Ferries ship, the Barfleur. During 1992, the Truckline Ferries freight vessel, Purbeck, and the St Malo ship Armorique both stepped down.

In 1993, the penultimate ship of the 1990s was introduced. The Val de Loire was purchased from TT-Line and partially rebuilt for service on the Santander and Cork routes. The vessel replaced the Bretagne which transferred to the St Malo route, allowing the Duchesse Anne to operate new services between Poole, St Malo, Cork, Roscoff and Plymouth. Following further financial difficulties in the mid-1990s, these new routes were ended and the Duchesse Anne left the fleet. The Normandie Shipper was also sold, but the ex-Truckline Ferries vessel Purbeck was later chartered back by the company for use on various routes, primarily Portsmouth-Caen. In 1999, the Barfleur was repainted in Brittany Ferries colours, ending the Truckline Ferries tradition on the route.


In 2001 a new fast ferry service began to operate between Poole and Cherbourg in partnership with Condor Ferries. The fast Normandie Vitesse could make the voyage in just over two hours. In 2002, a new ship, the Mont St Michel, was due to enter service between Portsmouth and Caen. The Duc de Normandie was transferred to the Roscoff route in July, whilst the Quiberon was sent to Caen to cover until the new ship arrived. The Mont St Michel was delayed until December however. The Quiberon spent the remainder of the year on the busiest Brittany Ferries route. She had been with the company for almost 21 years when she was sold in 2003. In 2004, another new ship, the Pont-Aven, was introduced on the Santander & Cork routes. She could travel much faster than the rest of the fleet, cutting journey times by a quarter.

In late 2004, the company withdrew the Duc de Normandie from the fleet. The Bretagne transferred to the Roscoff route, leaving the Val de Loire at St Malo. The Coutances was also earmarked for disposal, but then a change of heart resulted in its refit, losing her Truckline Ferries livery in favour of the new Brittany Ferries logo.

More changes occurred in 2005 with the withdrawal of P&O's French routes from Portsmouth. A new fastcraft, the Normandie Express was chartered to operate between Portsmouth and Cherbourg and Caen. In addition, the Poole-Cherbourg ship Barfleur was redeployed to operate a triangular service between Portsmouth, Poole and Cherbourg. A new ship was announced, in part a replacement for the Coutances. The ship was named the Cotentin. Purbeck was to have returned from operating in New Zealand and cover the Portsmouth-Cherbourg link but this plan was dropped. Barfleur returned to the Poole-Cherbourg link in November 2005.

The former flagship of the fleet (from 1993 until the arrival of the Mont St Michel) Val de Loire left the fleet in February 2006, having been sold to DFDS and renamed King of Scandinavia. In the meantime, Brittany Ferries had taken a 2-year charter of the DFDS ship Duke of Scandinavia, which was renamed Pont-L'Abbé and ran on the Plymouth-Roscoff route. The Bretagne returned to the Portsmouth-St Malo route. Brittany Ferries also announced a new build for the Plymouth-Roscoff route, to be launched early 2008. In February 2006 the Normandie Express was brought under the French flag, she was later purchased by the company in early 2007. Brittany Ferries new freight ship, the Cotentin, entered service on 26 November 2007 with the 23:45 Cherbourg-Poole service. The new ship also operated a weekly service to Santander from Poole. It was announced on 19 December 2007 that the company had purchased the Pont-L'Abbé from DFDS. On 1 May 2008 MV Coutances completed her last sailing for the company - having been with Truckline Ferries] for 30 years and with Brittany Ferries since 1985. In early 2009, the Armorique was launched on the Plymouth-Roscoff route, replacing the Pont L'Abbe. For 2009, the Pont-Aven operated a new Portsmouth to Santander service once a week (cutting the previous Plymouth to Santander route to once a week).


In late 2009, the new Poole-Santander freight-only service was deemed a success and the frequency was doubled: there would now be two services a week operated by Cotentin. In November 2009, the Armorique was laid up for the rest of the winter season. Major changes were announced in December 2009. The Barfleur was withdrawn from service at the end of January 2010 after nearly 18 years service on the Poole-Cherbourg route. The service was temporarily served by the Armorique, which came back to service earlier than originally planned. The Poole-Santander service reverted to one sailing a week with the Cotentin covering freight on the Poole-Cherbourg service in the absence of Barfleur. The Condor Vitesse continued to operate one round sailing a day in the summer months between the two ports. The Cap Finistère ran between Portsmouth and Santander twice a week and also operated three round trips a week between Portsmouth and Cherbourg. In September 2010, Brittany Ferries announced plans to serve the Portsmouth–Bilbao route recently abandoned by P&O Ferries.[3] The route started on 27 March 2011.

In February 2011, Barfleur returned to the Poole-Cherbourg route on a seven-month trial basis after being laid up for a year. Her final crossing of 2011 was 3 October. The return of Barfleur allowed Cotentin to run two Poole-Santander trips a week. However, with Barfleur being laid up again, the Poole-Santander sailings reverted to one trip a week. On 23 March, it was announced that Barfleur was to be chartered to DFDS Seaways for use on their DoverCalais route. Her first sailing on the route was on 27 April.

On 1 April 2011, the new Portsmouth International Port (PIP) terminal, used by Brittany Ferries, LD Lines and Condor Ferries, was opened to the public. An official opening ceremony took place on 13 May 2011. This modern, stylish, eco-friendly building replaced the previous terminal building that stood from 1976 until its well needed replacement occurred in 2011.

On 21 September 2012, Brittany Ferries cancelled sailings indefinitely following two days of wildcat strikes caused by crew members who were unhappy with changes in working terms and conditions. Meetings took place between management and unions to negotiate the management proposals. A vote was taken on 30 September by union members to decide if the management proposals would be accepted. The crew members accepted the proposal and services resumed on 2 October after 12 days without services. During this period, Brittany Ferries made special arrangements with P&O Ferries and MyFerryLink to accept Brittany Ferries tickets on the Dover–Calais route; any unused tickets were refunded.[4] Services were not affected on the Poole–Cherbourg route which was being operated by Condor Ferries.

The 2012 season was the last year of the Poole–Cherbourg fastcraft operation with Condor Ferries. For the first time since 2001, the Condor vessel operating the Poole-Cherbourg summer service was the Condor Express rather than the Condor Vitesse.

In May 2013, Brittany Ferries introduced a new route with services from Portsmouth to Le Havre using their high-speed vessel, Normandie Express.

In October 2013, Brittany Ferries’ freight service from Poole-Santander terminated and Cotentin, who served the route, is now being chartered by Stena Line.

On 5 November 2013, Christophe Mathieu, deputy managing director of Brittany Ferries and Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain, signed an agreement to run a joint marketing campaign designed to attract more French tourists to the UK. The agreement commits both parties to a three-year campaign with a promotional match-funded spend of £1.5 million, and is the first time Brittany Ferries has entered into such an arrangement with VisitBritain.

On 7 February 2014, Brittany Ferries announced that as from the end of March 2014, it would charter the former Visentini-built DFDS Seaways Norman Voyager to operate on Le Havre, Portsmouth and Santander. The vessel was renamed MV Etretat.

During the weekends, the ferry sails on Portsmouth–Santander. Demand for freight capacity is high during the weekend, but also passengers are interested in such a service.

On weekdays, the Norman Voyager, which has been renamed MV Etretat, sails on PortsmouthLe Havre, a route that was successful in 2013 when Brittany Ferries introduced the catamaran HSC Normandie Express. However, after the 2015 summer season, Brittany Ferries pulled the HSC Normandie Express from this route as it was not financially viable. The "new" ro-pax ferry MV Etretat will sail year-round.

On 13 October 2014, it was announced that plans to convert MV Armorique, MV Mont St Michel and MV Pont-Aven to run on LNG (liquefied natural gas) as well as a new LNG-powered ferry had been cancelled as the company could not justify the costs. These three ships as well as MV Barfleur, MV Cap Finistère and MV Normandie will instead receive exhaust gas scrubbers in order to remove sulphur from their exhaust emissions.

On 30 January 2015, Brittany Ferries announced that it would charter the DFDS Seaways vessel MS Sirena Seaways from the beginning of April 2015 and start service with Brittany Ferries in May 2015, to operate on their successful Portsmouth–Le Havre route, alongside the MV Etretat. It will also operate a twice weekly Portsmouth–Spain service. The ship will be renamed 'MV Baie de Seine'

On 22 June 2015, Jean-Marc Roue, president of Brittany Ferries, stated in an interview with French newspaper le Marin that a new vessel was to be ordered sometime in 2016. The new vessel is to be similar to the postponed 'Project Pegasis' order. The MV Pont-Aven will take over from MV Bretagne on the Portsmouth–St Malo route with the new vessel taking on the Portsmouth to Santander, Plymouth to Roscoff, Plymouth to Santander and Cork to Roscoff routes. MV Bretagne is likely to be sold or scrapped.

On 19 January 2016, Brittany Ferries announced it will charter a vessel to carry freight between Poole and Bilbao, in northern Spain. Brittany Ferries has chartered the RoRo vessel, MN Pelican from Maritime Nantaise for 12 months, with the option of an extension. The vessel has the capacity for around one hundred unaccompanied trailers and twelve drivers and commenced service with Brittany Ferries on 11 February 2016.

On 5 March 2016, Martine Jourdren stated in an interview with le Telegramme that some of the current fleet were then ageing and Brittany Ferries are looking to replace the MV Bretagne and MV Normandie with newly built vessels. Brittany Ferries are looking to order three new vessels by 2021. There is a three-year-long wait between ordering and delivery.

Whilst en route from Ouistreham to Portsmouth in the afternoon of 11 April 2016, MV Normandie suffered a small fire in one of the electrical panels in the engine room which caused smoke to develop. Two crew members were air-lifted to hospital, one suffering from smoke inhalation, the other with an unknown injury. MV Normandie was diverted to Cherbourg, the passengers stayed on board until the following morning, and 9 sailings were cancelled as a result.

On 20 October 2016, Brittany Ferries announced that they had renegotiated a deal to continue sailings from Portsmouth International Port. The deal, which was signed that week with Portsmouth City Council who own the port, is for the next 11 years.

On 24 October 2016, Brittany Ferries announced plans to build a ferry that could integrate a propulsion liquefied natural gas (LNG). An innovative project, that was abandoned in late 2014, which would be reborn as a smaller vessel to sail between Portsmouth and Ouistreham.

On 21 December 2016, Brittany Ferries released its first sketch design for their new LNG-powered cruise-ferry for the Portsmouth to Ouistreham route. The new ship, codenamed Mont St Michel 2, will carry up to 1680 passengers and 130 freight or 550 cars. The new 42,000 gt ship will be constructed by Flensburger Schiffbau shipyard in Germany for delivery sometime in 2019.

On 20 June 2017, Brittany Ferries confirmed its order for their new LNG-powered cruise-ferry for the Portsmouth to Ouistreham route. The new 42,000gt ship will be constructed by Flensburger Schiffbau shipyard in Germany scheduled for delivery on 30th April 2019. The new ship is to be named 'MV Honfleur'.

On 6 July 2017, Brittany Ferries announced that the 2003 built MV Baie de Seine will be returned to her owners, DFDS, in April 2019. The ship currently operates from Portsmouth to Spain and Le Havre and was formerly the Harwich-Esbjerg ship Dana Sirena/Sirena Seaways. Around 2 weeks later, Brittany Ferries confirmed that her replacement will be one of the new Stena E-Flexer Ro-Pax ferries on order from China.

On 14 July 2017, Brittany Ferries announced it will extend its charter of freight vessel MN Pelican from Maritime Nantaise for a further 2 years. The vessel, capable to carry up to 100 unoccupied trailers, will continue to operate on the Poole to Bilbao route.


Current Fleet[edit]

Ship Built Entered Service Gross Tonnage Length Beam Service Speed Vessel Type Port of Registry Current status
MV Armorique 2009 2009 29,468 GT 168.30m 26.8m 25 Knots Cruise Ferry Morlaix In Service
MV Baie de Seine 2002 2015 22,382 GT 199.4m 23.0m 24 Knots Économie Service Le Havre In Service
MV Barfleur 1992 1992 20,133 GT 158.7m 23.3m 19.5 Knots Cruise Ferry Cherbourg In Service
MV Bretagne 1989 1989 24,534 GT 152.80m 26.0m 21 Knots Cruise Ferry Morlaix In Service
MV Cap Finistère 2001 2010 32,728 GT 203.90m 25.0m 28 Knots Cruise Ferry Morlaix In Service
MV Etretat 2008 2014 26,904 GT 187.00m 26.0m 24 Knots Économie service Le Havre Undergoing Refit in Gdansk, Poland
MV Mont St Michel 2002 2002 35,586 GT 173.95m 28.5m 22 Knots Cruise Ferry Caen In Service
MV Normandie 1992 1992 27,451 GT 161.40m 26.0m 20.5 Knots Cruise Ferry Caen In Service
HSC Normandie Express 2000 2005 6,581 GT 97.22m 26.6m 42 Knots High Speed Ferry Caen Undergoing Maintenance in Cherbourg
MN Pelican 1998 2016 12,076 GT 155.0m 22.0m 19 Knots Freight Vessel Marseille In Service
MV Pont-Aven 2004 2004 41,000 GT 184.3m 25.0m 27 Knots Cruise Ferry Morlaix In Service

Future Fleet[edit]

Ship Built Entered Service Gross Tonnage Length Beam Service Speed Vessel Type Port of Registry Current Status
MV Honfleur On Order On Order 42,000 GT 185.00m 31.0m 22 Knots Cruise Ferry Unknown Due for delivery 30th April 2019
Stena E-Flexer Ro-Pax On Order On Order Cruise Ferry Unknown Due for delivery in 2020 from Stena Line

Past fleet[edit]

Ship Built In service Tonnage Current status
Kerisnel 1972 1972 1,983 GT Scrapped after sinking.
Prince de Bretagne 1975 1975 2,424 GT Scrapped in Turkey, 2004
Bénodet 1970 1989 4,317 GT Since 2000, MV Apollo with Woodward Group
MV Goelo 1967 1980 5,149 GT Scrapped in Turkey, 2001
Penn-Ar-Bed 1974 1974 6,399 GT Scrapped in India, 2004
MS Armorique 1972 1976 8,181 GT Sunk in Java Sea, 2011
Cornouailles 1977 1977 6,918 GT Scrapped in Turkey, 2013
MV Reine Mathilde 1970 1978 7,747 GT Scrapped in India, 2005
MV Breizh Izel 1970 1980 6,576 GT Scrapped in Turkey, 2014
MV Armorique 1975 1982 11,813 GT Scrapped in India, 2010
MV Tregastel 1971 1985 8,696 GT Since 2011, Noor with Baaboud Shipping
MV Coutances 1970 1985 6,507 GT Since 2008, Sirena Seaways with DFDS
MV Purbeck 1978 1985 6,507 GT Since 2006, Maria Rosario with Conferry
MV Quiberon 2009 2009 76,000 GT Scrapped
MV Duc de Normandie 1978 1986 13,505 GT Since 2013, Vronskiy with Acciona Trasmediterránea
MV Duchesse Anne 1979 1988 9,795 GT Since 1996, Dubrovnik with Jadrolinija


Route Vessel
RoscoffCork MV Pont-Aven
PortsmouthCherbourg HSC Normandie Express
PlymouthRoscoff MV Armorique and MV Pont-Aven
PortsmouthBilbao MV Cap Finistere and MV Baie de Seine
PlymouthSantander MV Pont-Aven and MV Cap Finistere
PooleCherbourg MV Barfleur
PortsmouthSaint Malo MV Bretagne
PortsmouthCaen MV Mont St Michel and MV Normandie
PortsmouthSantander MV Pont-Aven, MV Cap Finistere and MV Baie de Seine
PooleCherbourg MV Barfleur
PooleBilbao MN Pelican

Exceptional Service[edit]

During the 'refit season' (roughly early January until before the Easter break), many ships undergo major maintenance and refurbishment. It is not uncommon, as a positioning move, to operate a service from Plymouth - St Malo - Portsmouth, or vice versa. These services are generally noted in the printed and on-line timetables, and are open to passengers.

In previous years during the Christmas and New Year period, Brittany Ferries chartered the MV Pont-Aven to Mistral Holidays, who operate cruises to Rouen and Antwerp. The cruise generally leaves Portsmouth International Port and spends two days in the Continental port. The MV Pont-Aven is therefore the only ship which operates on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Brittany Ferries parted company with Mistral Holidays in 2015.

In 2016, Brittany Ferries announced that they would be solely operating a New Year cruise to Rouen on the MV Pont-Aven.

Onboard facilities[edit]

Brittany Ferries vessels have a variety of onboard facilities. These include shops, self-service and à la carte restaurants, bars and cafes. All vessels have their own bureau de change, except for the Cap Finistère and the Armorique which instead has an ATM that dispenses Euros. Most vessels have a cinema and gambling/gaming machines. There was often a photography shop on board with film developing and printing facilities; ; these shops have been removed due to the rise in digital photography. In late 2009 Brittany Ferries installed a WiFi service across its fleet of traditional ferries, and in April 2013 this became free in public areas, except for cabins. In July 2012, spa treatment areas were added to the Pont-Aven and the Cap Finistère.

HSC Normandie Express has more limited facilities, such as a smaller shop and a bar/café with WiFi throughout the vessel.



  1. ^ "Brittany Ferries Bilan Consolidé (Balance Sheet), including employee numbers" (PDF). Brittany Ferries Corporate. 
  2. ^ Cruising Monthly, newsletter of Coastal Cruising Association, and other contemporary journals, 1973
  3. ^ "Brittany Ferries saves Portsmouth-Bilbao route". Travel News UK. 27 September 2010. Archived from the original on 4 December 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2010. 
  4. ^ "Brittany Ferries services halted 'until further notice'". BBC News. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 


  • Cowsill, Miles (1993). Brittany Ferries: From the Land to the Sea / De la Terre a la Mer (in English and French). Kilgetty, Pembrokeshire: Ferry Publications. ISBN 1871947170. 
  • Cowsill, Miles (2007). Brittany Ferries: 1973–2007. Ramsey, Isle of Man: Ferry Publications. ISBN 1871947898. 
  • Cowsill, Miles (2013). Brittany Ferries: 40 memorable years of service, hospitality and holidays. Ramsey, Isle of Man: Ferry Publications. ISBN 9781906608521. 

External links[edit]