By Marcia MacLeod
Increases in capacity and service frequency between the UK and Spain has encouraged tier one and tier two suppliers to use Brittany Ferries to move parts northbound for OEMs such as Nissan and Mitsubishi.
“We handled approximately 1,000 trailer loads of car parts from Spain last year, and another 100 or so from Portugal, mainly seats for Peugeot Citroën,” said Jon Clarke, Brittany Ferries freight director.
“Confidence is coming back into the market and, more importantly, suppliers have more confidence in our time keeping, since we are offering more regular departures and guaranteed space. Over 95% of our freight sailings arrive within 30 minutes of advertised arrival time.”
Overall demand for Spanish capacity has seen volumes increase by nearly 200%. In 2009, Brittany carried 5,000 vehicles between the UK and Spain, in both directions, while in 2010, that figure jumped to 19,000 units.
Additional capacity undoubtedly helped. The Contentin (pictured), a freight-only vessel built for Brittany Ferries, entered service a year ago to offer a weekly departure to Santander and three departures to Cherbourg. Now the ship, which has space for 120 trucks, is offering a twice-weekly crossing to Spain.
Shortly after Contentin was introduced, Cap Finistere, a multi-purpose ‘superfast’ ferry, was added to the fleet to run twice weekly between Portsmouth and Santander, again using the rest of its time to serve France, this time Portsmouth-Cherbourg.
Now the Cap Finistere will help Brittany Ferries launch a new route from Portsmouth to Bilbao, a route previously operated by P&O Ferries, which closed this service last September. The ship will offer two departures per week to Bilbao and one to Santander.
“We used the Contentin to establish demand,” explained Jon Clarke, freight director. “When we had the demand, we purchased the Cap Finistere. Although the eight-year-old ship is multi-purpose, she always has space for a minimum 65 freight vehicles.”
Clarke believes there are significant advantages in using an all-water link between the UK and Spain. “We’ve been telling people for 30 years that taking a ferry direct to Spain makes economic sense,” he said. “Drivers can use the crossing as a rest period and you save the cost of running the lorry from France into Spain, a journey which could be a couple of hundred miles or more. But we think the fuel crisis has finally made people aware of the cost savings, because they’re not using fuel while they’re onboard the ferry.”
Despite the growth in capacity to Spain, Brittany Ferries is not ignoring its French routes. The Barfleur, which was taken out of service when the other two vessels joined the fleet, has been returned to service to operate Poole-Cherbourg four times per week.

“The Barfleur was too slow to offer an efficient service to Spain,” Clarke explained, “and as there was too much capacity on the Channel, we took her out of service. But the upturn in the market has encouraged us to re-introduce her to our fleet. Many of our French routes are almost at capacity now.”