New direct Ireland-Spain ferry route launches today
The Connemara is due to leave Cork on May 9th on its maiden voyage bound for Cork.
The new Cork to Santander ferry route is due to set off on its maiden voyage.
After a rocky start that saw the inaugural voyage delayed from April 29th due to undisclosed "operational reasons", Brittany Ferries launched its first service between Ireland and Spain.
The company, which already operates regular sailings between Bilbao and Santander to UK ports, will run a twice-weekly service between the northern Spanish port of Santander and Cork on Irelands south coast.
MV Connemara on her maiden trip passing Cobh for Ringaskiddy this morning. Norwegian Jade in the background Roches Point. pic.twitter.com/H5DxC8EVZl
— Donal O'Connell (@heddeball) May 7, 2018
The 26-hour service will run from Cork on Wednesdays and Fridays and return from Santander on Thursdays and Sundays,
Britanny Ferries announced in January that the new route would be provided by the 'Connemara', a ferry equipped to carry around 500 passengers with space for 195 cars.
“This is a significant move for Brittany Ferries, offering haulage companies a direct route to Spain and passengers a far greater range of holiday options from Cork,” said Hugh Bruton, general manager with Brittany Ferries Ireland when the route was announced.
“As a destination so-called green Spain promises visitors a wealth of opportunities. It hosts sweeping sandy beaches, snow covered mountains just an hour from the port, fabulous food and offers visitors a welcome as warm as the Spanish will receive when they join us in Ireland,” he said.
It is the first time Brittany Ferries has offered a route between Ireland and Spain, although in 2014, LD Lines launched a connection between Rosslare and Gijon but the service only last a season.
Among the first travellers to use the service are fans of Leinster Rugby, which reached the final of the European Champions Cup and play Paris team Racing 92 in Bilbao on Saturday.
But it is the long-term commercial traffic that is expected to make the route a success.
Capt Michael McCarthy, the Commercial Manager at the Port of Cork, said the route would prove attractive to hauliers in the wake of Brexit and the prospect of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK.
“Its a game changer in relation to Brexit – its EU direct into EU so compared to the land bridge route via the UK, you are avoiding all the possible tariffs and taxes that may come with Brexit and the huge delays forecast at British ports serving the continent so its going to be very attractive,” he told the Irish Times.
In terms of existing trade, Irish fish and seafood exporters send huge volumes of produce to France and Spain while there is also a substantial trade in the other direction in everything from fruit and vegetables to wines as well as ceramics and timber, he said.
“Particularly the dairy and agriculture of north and west Cork will benefit from new economic links,” confirmed Port of Cork Chairman, John Mulllins. “It is a big trading link because a lot of Irish produce goes to Spain. I think you will find a lot of agricultural product will go on the journey.”