Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries (founded in 1973 by Alexis Gourvennec) is the trading name of French shipping company BAI Bretagne Angleterre Irlande S.A. that operates a fleet of ferries and cruiseferries between France and the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain, and between the United Kingdom and Spain.

Brittany Ferries
Private company
IndustryPassenger transportation
Freight transportation
FounderAlexis Gourvennec
HeadquartersRoscoff, France
Area served
France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain
Key people
Jean-Marc Roué
Christophe Mathieu
Frédéric Pouget
Corinne Vintner
Revenue €444.2 million (2018)
Total assets€444.2 million (2018)
OwnerBAI Bretagne Angleterre Irlande S.A.
Number of employees
2,787 (2018 average - high and low seasons)[1]


1970s and 1980s

BAI (Bretagne Angleterre Irlande) S.A. was founded by firebrand farmer Alexis Gourvennec. Working with fellow Breton farmers, Gourvennec lobbied for improvements to Brittany's infrastructure, including better roads, telephone network, education and port access. By 1972 he had successfully secured funding and work to develop a deep-waterport at Roscoff. Gourvennec had no desire to run a ferry service, but existing operators showed little appetite for the opportunity.

As was the way of a man known as "the bulldozer", he took the reins and did it himself.

The company itself began sailings on 2nd January 1973 between Roscoff in Brittany and Plymouth in the South West of England, using the freight ferry Kerisnel a former Israeli tank carrier. The company's primary aim at that time was to exploit opportunities presented by the UK's entry into the Common Market (forerunner to the EU), to take control away from hated middle-men in Paris and export directly to markets in the United Kingdom.

In 1974, Kerisnel was replaced by Penn-Ar-Bed, which carried both passengers and vehicles, and the BAI company adopted the name Brittany Ferries.[2] Such was the success of the Plymouth-Roscoff service that a larger ship, 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 Armorique and Prince of Brittany, and in the early 1980s a second ship was chartered for the Saint-Malo route. Goelo, an attractive-looking vessel, left the fleet in preparation for the new ship to be introduced in 1982. Quiberon replaced Armorique for the Santander and Cork services, allowing her to operate alongside Prince of Brittany on the Saint-Malo route, while Cornouailles maintained the original routes from Roscoff.

Benodet operated between Plymouth and Roscoff for just one year before being redeployed as part of Brittany Ferries' new venture, Channel Island Ferries. 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 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, Gotland was installed on the Caen service in 1988, as well as the new Truckline Ferries vessel 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 Quiberon, which transferred to the Roscoff route. Tregastel replaced Cornouailles on the Poole-Cherbourg Truckline Ferries passenger route along with Corbiere (formerly 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, Duchesse Anne. which was to run alongside Armorique. This allowed Prince of Brittany to be transferred to the Caen route under its new name, Reine Mathilde.


At the end of 1991, Reine Mathilde left the fleet ready for the introduction of the new cruise ferry Normandie on the Caen route. Corbiere and Tregastel also stepped down in preparation for the new Truckline Ferries ship, 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 Bretagne which transferred to the St Malo route, allowing 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 Duchesse Anne left the fleet. 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, 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, Mont St Michel, was due to enter service between Portsmouth and Caen. Duc de Normandie was transferred to the Roscoff route in July, whilst Quiberon was sent to Caen to cover until the new ship arrived. Mont St Michel was delayed until December however. 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, 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 Duc de Normandie from the fleet. Bretagne transferred to the Roscoff route, leaving Val de Loire at St Malo. 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, 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 Coutances. The ship was named 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 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 up a 2-year charter of the DFDS ship Duke of Scandinavia, which was renamed Pont-L'Abbé and ran on the Plymouth-Roscoff route. 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 Normandie Express was brought under the French flag, she was later purchased by the company in early 2007. Brittany Ferries new freight ship, 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 Pont-L'Abbé from DFDS. On 1 May 2008 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, Armorique was launched on the Plymouth-Roscoff route, replacing Pont L'Abbe. For 2009, 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, Armorique was laid up for the rest of the winter season. Major changes were announced in December 2009. 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 Armorique, which came back to service earlier than originally planned. The Poole-Santander service reverted to one sailing a week with Cotentin covering freight on the Poole-Cherbourg service in the absence of Barfleur. Condor Vitesse continued to operate one round sailing a day in the summer months between the two ports. 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 PooleCherbourg fastcraft operation with Condor Ferries. For the first time since 2001, the Condor vessel operating the Poole-Cherbourg summer service was Condor Express rather than 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, which 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 Visit Britain.

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

On 30 January 2015, Brittany Ferries announced that it would charter the DFDS Seaways vessel 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 Etretat. It will also operate a twice weekly Portsmouth–Spain service. The ship will be renamed Baie de Seine.

The company chartered the RoRo vessel, 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 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 20 June 2017, Brittany Ferries confirmed its order for a new LNG-powered cruise-ferry for the Portsmouth to Ouistreham route. The new 42,000 GT ship, to be constructed by Flensburger Schiffbau shipyard in Germany, is scheduled for delivery in 2019. The new ship is to be named Honfleur.

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

On 16 January 2018, Brittany Ferries announced it will begin a new route from Cork, Ireland to Santander, Spain. The new route, which will consist of two weekly connections along with an additional weekly service between Cork, Ireland & Roscoff, France, commenced in May 2018. Brittany Ferries is chartering the Stena RoRo Vessel Asterion which is currently serving routes between Italy and Greece and will be renamed Connemara.[5]

On 12 March 2018, work commenced on the construction of Honfleur with the Steel Cutting Ceremony. Unfortunately, the construction of the vessel will take a little over a year to complete.

On 24 May 2018, Brittany Ferries confirmed that it had ordered a second Stena E-Flexer vessel with the option to buy after the five-year charter. This takes the number to two chartered from Stena Line along with the new build vessel Honfleur expected in 2019.[6]

In October 2018, Brittany Ferries announced that a new logo will be used for marketing purposes and will appear on their vessels, with Armorique and Pont-Aven being the first ships to receive the new livery. The logo is part of a multi-million pound investment in the company's future. 450 million euros has been earmarked for new ships, new brand (including logo) and a focus on more digital tools. [7]

On 26 March 2019, Brittany Ferries confirmed its order of a fourth new build (9th Stena E-Flexer-class ferry), chartered from Stena RoRo and will be built at the AVIC Weihai Shipyard in China, due to join the fleet in the year 2023. Like the other E-Flexer-Class Ferries, this vessel will also be powered by LNG (liquefied natural gas). [8] This new ferry will be named Santoña.

On 20 June 2019, Brittany Ferries announced it was finalising a one year charter of an additional ship from Stena Ro-Ro ahead of the 2020 season, which will be operated by the ferry company from November 2019 to November 2020 to deliver additional flexibility to a route network that connects France, the UK, Spain and Ireland. [9]

On 27 August 2019, MV Bore Bay arrived in Poole as a temporary cover for MN Pelican while she undergoes maintenance and fitting of exhaust scrubbers. The temporary cover will last until at least 1 January 2020. [10]

On 14 November 2019, Brittany Ferries announced that they had reached an agreement with Columbia Threadneedle Investments to acquire Condor Ferries from Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets. [11]

The Fleet

Current Fleet

Ship Built Entered service Gross tonnage Length Beam Service speed Vessel type Port of registry Current status
Armorique 2009200929,468 GT168.30 m26.8 m25 knotsCruise FerryMorlaixIn Service
Baie de Seine 2002201522,382 GT199.4 m23.0 m24 knotsÉconomie ServiceLe HavreIn Service
Barfleur 1992199220,133 GT158.7 m23.3 m19.5 knotsCruise FerryCherbourgUndergoing Refit in Santander, Spain
Bretagne 1989198924,534 GT152.80 m26.0 m21 knotsCruise FerryMorlaixLaid Up in Le Havre
Cap Finistère 2001201032,728 GT203.90 m25.0 m28 knotsCruise FerryMorlaixIn Service
Connemara2007201827,414 GT186.50 m25.6 m24 knotsÉconomie ServiceMorlaixIn Service
Etretat 2008201426,904 GT187.00 m26.0 m24 knotsÉconomie ServiceLe HavreIn Service
Kerry2001201924,418 GT186.50 m25.6 m24 knotsRo-Ro FerryLimassolIn Service
Mont St Michel 2002200235,586 GT173.95 m28.5 m22 knotsCruise FerryCaenIn Service
Normandie 1992199227,451 GT161.40 m26.0 m20.5 knotsCruise FerryCaenIn Service
Normandie Express 200020056,581 GT97.22 m26.6 m42 knotsHigh Speed FerryCaenLaid Up in Le Havre
MV Bore Bay 1997201910,572 GT138.5 m22.7 m20 knotsFreight VesselHelsingforsIn Service
Pont-Aven 2004200440,859 GT184.3 m31.0 m27 knotsCruise FerryMorlaixIn Service

Future Fleet

Ship Built Entered service Gross tonnage Length Beam Service speed Vessel type Port of registry Current status
HonfleurUnder constructionUnder construction42,400 GT187.40 m31.0 m22 knotsCruise FerryCaenDue for delivery Spring 2020
GaliciaUnder constructionUnder construction42,400 GT214.50 m27.8 m22 knotsCruise FerryUnknownDue for delivery Winter 2020
SalamancaOn orderOn order42,400 GT214.50 m27.8 m22 knotsCruise FerryUnknownDue for delivery Spring 2022
SantoñaOn orderOn order42,400 GT214.50 m27.8 m22 knotsCruise FerryUnknownDue for delivery Spring 2023

Past Fleet

Ship Built In service Tonnage Current status
Kerisnel197219721,983 GTScrapped after sinking.
Bénodet197019834,317 GTSince 2000, with Woodward Group as MS Apollo
Goelo196719805,149 GTScrapped in Turkey, 2001
Penn-Ar-Bed197419746,399 GTScrapped in India, 2004
Armorique197219768,181 GTSunk in The Java Sea, 2011
Cornouailles197719776,918 GTScrapped in Turkey, 2013
Reine Mathilde197019787,747 GTScrapped in India, 2005
Breizh Izel197019806,576 GTScrapped in Turkey, 2014
Tregastel197119858,696 GTEver since 2011, with Baaboud Shipping as MS Noor
Coutances197019856,507 GTSank in Puerto la Cruz, 2018
Purbeck197819856,507 GTEver since 2006, with Conferry as MS Maria Rosario
Quiberon1975198211,813 GTRenamed D'Abundo and sent to Alang for scrapping
Duc de Normandie1978198613,505 GTSince 2013, with Acciona Trasmediterránea as Vronskiy
Duchesse Anne197919889,795 GTSince 1996, with Jadrolinija as MF Dubrovnik
Val de Loire1986199231,564 GTSince 2006, with DFDS Seaways as MS King Seaways
Pont L'Abbe1976200617,564 GTSince 2009, with Moby Lines as Moby Corse
Cotentin2007200722,252 GTSince 2013, on charter to Stena Line as MS Stena Baltica


Route Vessel
PortsmouthCaen Mont St Michel and Normandie
PortsmouthLe Havre Etretat and Baie de Seine
PortsmouthCherbourg Normandie Express
PortsmouthSaint Malo Bretagne and Pont-Aven (Winter service)
PortsmouthSantander Pont-Aven, Cap Finistere and Baie de Seine
PortsmouthBilbao Cap Finistere and Baie de Seine
PooleCherbourg Barfleur
PooleBilbao MV Bore Bay (Freight only)
PlymouthRoscoff Armorique and Pont-Aven
PlymouthSantander Pont-Aven
CorkRoscoff Pont-Aven and Connemara
CorkSantander Connemara and Kerry

Exceptional service

During the 'refit season' (roughly early January until before the Easter break), many ships undergo major maintenance and refurbishment as well as a refit. 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 '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. 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 Pont-Aven.



  1. "Brittany Ferries Bilan Consolidé (Balance Sheet), including employee numbers" (PDF). Brittany Ferries Corporate.
  2. Hoyle, B S; Pinder, David, eds. (1992). European Port Cities in Transition. London: Belhaven Press in association with the British Association for the Advancement of Science. p. 92. ISBN 9780470219263.
  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.
  5. "Portsmouth-based Brittany Ferries expands its route network in 2018".
  6. "Brittany Ferries invests in two new cruise-ferries for long-haul Spanish routes". To be called Galicia and Salamanca, the ships are expected to enter service in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
  7. "Brittany Ferries' fresh new look".
  8. "Brittany Ferries confirms fourth new cruise-ferry, post-Brexit".
  9. "New ship charter will secure 2020 season schedules says Brittany Ferries".
  10. "Pélican or Bore Bay".
  11. "Brittany Ferries Acquire Condor Ferries".


  • 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.
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