Pont-Aven will sail to Brest for steering gear repairs

17th May 2019

Brittany Ferries is apologising to all customers who will be affected by further disruption and schedule changes over the coming days. A hydraulic problem with one of Pont-Aven’s two steering gear systems was reported during manoeuvres this morning in the port of Roscoff, following her overnight crossing from Plymouth which departed on the evening of Thursday 16 May 2019.

The vessel is now safely alongside in Roscoff and all passengers have disembarked safely and on schedule.

As a consequence of reduced steering capacity in one of two steering systems she is not able to complete her rotation from Roscoff to Cork departing 20:30 Friday (local time). Nor will she be available for scheduled services between the UK and Spain next week.

In-depth investigations are currently underway, and at this stage it is expected that Pont-Aven will sail under her own steam to Brest where repairs to the affected steering system will take place.

“We are all truly sorry for the further problems with our flagship vessel Pont-Aven,” said Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries CEO. “Unfortunately she has suffered two technical problems in rapid succession. While the previous engine problem, which reduced the ship’s speed from 24 knots to 20 knots, is entirely unrelated to the current steering gear issue, the consequence of further bad luck is significant inconvenience for our passengers.

“Of course safety must always come first, but we recognise that taking her out of service will mean disruption to many travellers’ plans. So we will, of course, do what we can to help those affected by offering alternative travel arrangements.”

Pont-Aven is fitted with two entirely independent Rotary Vane steering gears, each operating one of two rudders. These are self-contained units positioned at her stern directly above the rudders (see images). Hydraulic oil is injected at high pressure into a series of chambers which operate the rotating part of the steering servo-motors. As these chambers fill, the rotor turns, thus moving each rudder in the desired direction.

Pont-Aven’s engineers were alerted to low oil pressure in the starboard steering gear. An oil leak was identified which caused the pressure loss and a reduction in steering capacity. Under these circumstances, the decision was immediately taken to take Pont-Aven out of service in Roscoff, for investigation and remedial work to be carried out.

The company regrets the disruption this will cause for services operating between Plymouth and Roscoff, between Roscoff and Cork, as well as services next week operating between Plymouth and Santander.

Brittany Ferries’ Armorique will be reassigned to the Roscoff-Cork route this weekend. She will leave Roscoff on Saturday morning (at a time to be confirmed) rather than this evening at 20:30 (local times). As a consequence of this change, weekend Armorique sailings from Roscoff to Plymouth, departing at 15:00 Saturday 18 May and the overnight departure from Plymouth to Roscoff, leaving at 22:00, Saturday 18 May, have regrettably been cancelled (all times local).

Once again, Brittany Ferries offers its sincerest apologies to all those affected by the disruption. Customer services teams in, France, the UK, Spain and Ireland will be working hard this weekend to re-schedule affected passengers and to help those affected by this further disruption to Brittany Ferries’ services.


  1. Pont-Aven ship at sea – photograph
  2. Pont-Aven rudder and propellors – photograph
  3. Pont-Aven ship plan – with annotation showing position of steering gear


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 the 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. Around 210,000 freight units are carried each year.

Key figures:

  • Turnover: Approximately €444.2m per year
  • Employment – Between 2400 and 3100 employees (including 1,700 seafarers), depending on the season. 360 in the UK.
  • Passengers: Between 2.5 and 2.7 million each year travelling in approximately 900,000 cars
  • Freight: 205,400 units transported annually, and one freight-only route linking Bilbao and Poole
  • Twelve ships operating services that connect France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain
  • Eleven ports in total: Bilbao, Santander, Portsmouth, Poole, Plymouth, Cork, Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Saint-Malo, Roscoff
  • Tourism in Europe: There were 854,000 unique visitors, staying 9.2 million bed-nights in France.



Ellis Malcolm on 02392 892 221 or 07464 980 594 or [email protected]

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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