Brittany Ferries largely returned to its roots as a freight-only operation towards the end of last year. It carried 160,377 units in 2020, down around 20% on the previous year’s tally of 201,554.
Market distortions were caused by stockpiling at the end of the Brexit transition period and amid concerns about new border controls and import/export processes. The Covid crisis also affected freight volumes, although not as significantly as it did for passenger traffic.
In an otherwise miserable year, there were some notable highlights for Brittany Ferries. It won the third in a series of Brexit-related ferry contracts with the UK government (Department for Transport).
This guaranteed DfT space aboard vessels to ensure the supply of essential goods like medicines in the event of potential chaos at short-sea ports on the Channel. As well as supporting routes like Le Havre to Portsmouth, these contracts reinforced the strategic significance of Brittany Ferries’ route network to national governments, as well as to local regions.
Thanks to the flexibility of its fleet the company was also able to meet demand from Irish and French hauliers to open direct routes connecting Ireland with France, thus avoiding the need to transport goods via the UK land-bridge.
The “ferroutage” multimodal project also progressed, reflecting a wider trend in the ferry sector to link ferry services with European rail routes. Work began on the SNCF rail network which will allow freight to be carried by train between Bayonne and Cherbourg. Freighter MV Cotentin made a welcome return to the fleet, in preparation for the project launch in 2022.
The ship adds capacity to the route network and started operations by supporting DfT contracts in early 2021.
Christophe Mathieu, chief executive, Brittany ferries said: “There is no doubt 2021 will be another tough year for our company. However, we will continue on the path to recovery, taking tough decisions if necessary but encouraged by the findings of this independent report which show the market is ready to bounce back.
“We will always place the long-term interest of Brittany Ferries at heart and as long as we continue to be supported by our staff, shareholders, the banks, as well as by regional and national governments, I believe we can navigate a path through the storm. The future for Brittany Ferries can be as bright as the rich history which precedes it.”
This story has been amended to show the correct turnover: In 2020 the company turned over €202.4 million, compared with €469m in 2019, a 57% decline.