Freight volumes rise 32 percent in a year on Brittany Ferries’ Ireland-Spain route

28th September 2021

Brittany Ferries is carrying more than 1,000 freight units a month on its seaborne route connecting Rosslare in Ireland with Bilbao in Spain. In total, 7,874 units were carried in the first eight months of this year, which was 70 percent or 3,246 units up on 2020 figures.

Since April, the route has consistently carried in excess of 1,000 trucks and trailers per month.

Ferry lanes linking Ireland with Spain were opened for the first time by Brittany Ferries in 2018. Since then the Rosslare-Bilbao route has become an important artery for hauliers and logistics operators. The number of companies using the service has grown by 70% since the first year.

Furthermore, latest data reveals changes in the way many haulage companies are moving goods across the continent. Mirroring wider trends across the industry, the number of unaccompanied loads on the route have increased by 46 percent in just a year.

Unaccompanied – or driverless – loads refer to trailers that are dropped off at the dockside by one company, driven aboard a ferry in port, then collected at their destination by another. Several companies have set up twinning operations with partners on the opposite side of the Bay of Biscay and Irish Sea. Irish hauliers can then pick up unaccompanied loads arriving from Spain, with Spanish hauliers picking up loads arriving from Ireland.

“Brittany Ferries has a long history of testing the marketplace with new routes, new ships and new ideas,” said Simon Wagstaff, freight director Brittany Ferries. “It wasn’t the quickest start for Ireland Spain, but we stuck with it because we could see the way the world was turning.”

“Firstly we knew we had to facilitate what became known as the Brexit by-pass, which meant presenting alternatives to the UK land-bridge for hauliers in Ireland and on the Iberian Peninsula. Secondly, the arrival of Covid coincided with a move towards unaccompanied loads. As a company, we were ideally set up to serve this growing trend in the industry.”

In Ireland Brittany Ferries operates from two ports, Rosslare and Cork. Rosslare is also connected with Cherbourg in Normandy as well as Bilbao in Spain.

Services from Cork, which are more oriented to passenger traffic, connect with Roscoff.

The Rosslare Bilbao service operates twice week in each direction, with sailings from Rosslare on Wednesdays and Fridays, and from Bilbao on Thursdays and Sunday.


About Brittany Ferries

In 1967 a farmer from Finistère in Brittany, Alexis Gourvennec, succeeded in bringing together a variety of organisations from the region to embark on an ambitious project: the aim was to open up the region, to improve its infrastructure and to enrich its people by turning to traditional partners such as Ireland and the UK.

In 1972 BAI (Brittany-England-Ireland) was born. The first cross-Channel link was inaugurated in January 1973, when a converted Israeli tank-carrier called Kerisnel left the port of Roscoff for Plymouth carrying trucks loaded with Breton vegetables such as cauliflowers and artichokes. The story therefore begins on 2 January 1973, 24 hours after Great Britain’s entry into the Common Market (EEC). From these humble beginnings however Brittany Ferries as the company was re-named quickly opened up to passenger transport, then became a tour operator.

Today, Brittany Ferries has established itself as a national leader in French maritime transport: an atypical leader, under private ownership, still owned by a Breton agricultural cooperative. Eighty five percent of the company’s passengers are British.

Key figures:

  • Turnover: €202.4 million in 2020 (compared with €469m in 2019)
  • Investment in three new ships, Galicia plus two new vessels powered by cleaner LNG (liquefied natural gas) arriving in 2022 and 2023
  • Employment: 2,474 seafarers and shore staff (average high/low season in 2020)
  • Passengers: 752,102 in 2020 (compared with 2,498,354 in 2019)
  • Freight: 160,377 units in 2020 (compared with 201,554 in 2019)
  • Twelve ships operating services that connect France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain (non-Covid year) across 14 routes
  • Twelve ports in total: Bilbao, Santander, Portsmouth, Poole, Plymouth, Cork, Rosslare, Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Saint-Malo, Roscoff
  • Tourism in Europe: 231,000 unique visitors, staying 2.6 million bed-nights in France in 2020 (compared with 857,000 unique visitors, staying 8,7 million bed-nights in 2019)


Christopher Jones on 02392 152 291 or 07917 540 878 or [email protected]
Nigel Wonnacott on 02392 152 273 or 07833 446 729 or [email protected]




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