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St Nazaire to Gijon

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34 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Not to mention ships like Bretagne and Armorique being able to cover for Barfleur during refit season.

That's right, another two ships which have a draft of more than 6 metres.

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2 hours ago, Hawser Trunnion said:

Thanks for the indication re an announcement on Gijon-Montoir.

How will Brexit affect all these subsidies?

It won't as even countries without a free trade agreement are still involved such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia & Egypt.

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5 hours ago, cvabishop said:

Could the mods remove the Nazi from the thread title please? It does jar rather.

Well spotted!  Funny that it got to 3 pages with none of us noticing that!  Now sorted, thanks cvab.

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16 hours ago, jonno said:

Both Stena Lagan & Mersey have had a lot of time, effort & money spent on them raising their standard significantly, both are an improvement on Etretat with interiors more suitable for a longer sea journey

Indeed,  

https://www.niferry.co.uk/interior-galleries/stena-mersey-an-onboard-tour-in-photographs-july-2015/

Stena have shown just how well they can polish a ....

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8 hours ago, d2frs said:

Indeed,  

https://www.niferry.co.uk/interior-galleries/stena-mersey-an-onboard-tour-in-photographs-july-2015/

Stena have shown just how well they can polish a ....

One wonders to what standard these Balearia LNG Visentinis will be fitted out.  I am, of course, anticipating they will be used on Balearia's Biscay services -- which will be of some interest to travellers from this country assuming they happen!

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By happy coincidence the current issue (July/August 2017) of "Shippaxinfo" has a number of articles dealing with the Spanish ferry industry.  In the section on Balearia this operator is described as the Spanish operator with the most global presence and indicates that they have an "internationalization" programme which is ongoing.  Where better to continue then than the Bay of Biscay, where international services are dominated by an uncompromisingly French concern such as BF?  What their longterm plans are only they know but with two LNG Visentinis on order for delivery next year one could guess.  After all LD Lines operated their Biscay routes with two Visentinis, Norman Asturias and Norman Atlantic.  Of course Balearia could start with other vessels -- they have 25 already -- replacing them with the Visentinis when delivered

Thus it will be a bit of a surprise if Balearia DON'T emerge on the Bay of Biscay!

In anticipation one wonders if BF might have been able to head off competition from a Spanish operator if they had been a bit more internationally minded themselves, e.g. in the matter of the composition of the crew -- a few more Spanish, Portuguese and British seafarers!

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Should Balearia eventually institute their own service from the Spanish north coast to the English south coast they won't be the first big Spanish ferry operator to do so.  Ten years or so ago Acciona Trasmediterranea had a go.  Looking at their literature now it seems it was a very serious attempt with what appeared to be a very good ship, Fortuny.  So what went wrong as it lasted only eight months, I believe?  It may have been they were anticipating the early closure of P&O's service between Portsmouth and Bilbao with Pride of Bilbao and they would then step into P&O's shoes.  Trasmed were sailing between Portsmouth and Bilbao themselves, of course.  It was noticed at the time that Trasmed's very abrupt withdrawal followed hard on the heels of P&O's announcement they were extending PoB's charter for another three years but I don't know if this had anything to do with it.  In the event PoB didn't last another three years so perhaps Trasmed should have stayed with it!

Trasmed's withdrawal was abrupt indeed.  Fortuny came in from Bilbao, discharged and then sailed empty for the Mediterranean leaving waiting pax to make alternative travel arrangements to get to Spain.  The manager of the Continental Ferryport (CFP) (as the PIP then was) learned of the development from a news bulletin on a local radio station, BBC Radio Solent!

I see from Trasmed's timetable that the ship sailed from Bilbao at 1700hrs on Saturdays and arrived at Portsmouth at 2330hrs on Sundays.  Maybe such an unsocial arrival time was a reflection of the pressure on berthing slots at the CFP and why LD Lines went into Poole.

 

Edited by Hawser Trunnion

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On 8/16/2017 at 19:12, Hawser Trunnion said:

I see from Trasmed's timetable that the ship sailed from Bilbao at 1700hrs on Saturdays and arrived at Portsmouth at 2330hrs on Sundays.  Maybe such an unsocial arrival time was a reflection of the pressure on berthing slots at the CFP and why LD Lines went into Poole.

 

Hmm, I saw the Fortuny once, leaving Portsmouth, and that was at around half 12 on a Sunday (12:23 03/09/2017 according to the picture data), not sure when the timetable may have changed (It was on a trip to the Hovercraft Museum Open weekend, and remember choosing that day so I could see the Fortuny as well)

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I thought originally that Acciona/Transmed. were planning a route between Vigo and Avonmouth, what happened to that plan? Wouldn't Avonmouth be worth looking at again, given the congestion at other ports and the fact that Bristol is well-connected for most of the UK?

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The problem with Avonmouth for anything involving a passenger element is that its access is significantly tidally restricted.  So it would not be possible to operate a regular timetable schedule out of Avonmouth.  Sailings would have to conform to the tides and would therefore be pretty ad hoc - not what the travelling public wants.

(By the way, I am not talking about Newhaven / St Helier / St Malo type restrictions that cause occasional shifting of timings by an hour or so around the bottom of a Spring tide.  Avonmouth can only be accessed near the top, certainly in the top half, of any tide.  A different order of magnitude of tidal restriction compared to the aforementioned ferry ports).

Edited by Gareth

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34 minutes ago, Gareth said:

The problem with Avonmouth for anything involving a passenger element is that its access is significantly tidally restricted.  So it would not be possible to operate a regular timetable schedule out of Avonmouth.  Sailings would have to conform to the tides and would therefore be pretty ad hoc - not what the travelling public wants.

(By the way, I am not talking about Newhaven / St Helier / St Malo type restrictions that cause occasional shifting of timings by an hour or so around the bottom of a Spring tide.  Avonmouth can only be accessed near the top, certainly in the top half, of any tide.  A different order of magnitude of tidal restriction compared to the aforementioned ferry ports).

Plus you would have a trip around Land's End and up the Bristol channel, instead of just going into one of the south coast ports.

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Current plans seem to be for a revival of the Gijon-St Nazaire/Montoir link by Spanish ferry operator, Balearia, with -- and here one is guessing -- utilising the two LNG Visentinis currently building at a cost of EUR100 millions each.  For this venture Spanish governments are providing a subsidy for two years to cover start-up costs.  From this one would infer Balearia have two years in which to put their Biscay operations on a proper commercial footing and maybe the way to do this is to revive LD Lines' GLD Atlantique operations.  My guess is these closed down because LD's parent company, Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, decided to withdraw from direct involvement in ship operations and not because their Biscay ferry operations were not commercially viable.  I think Balearia could prove to be a very different proposition but what, if anything, they plan to do we'll just have to wait and see.  An announcement is due sometime next month apparently.

Vigo already has the EU subsidised export car service by Suardiaz across the Bay to Montoir and while Bristol has been suggested as the eastern end of a revived service to Cork, quite apart from any tidal restrictions, it would not permit Balearia to institute a cross-Channel service should they wish to do so as part of their internationalisation programme and an obvious direction in which to expand.

 

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On 21/08/2017 at 19:58, The Ferry Man said:

Hmm, I saw the Fortuny once, leaving Portsmouth, and that was at around half 12 on a Sunday (12:23 03/09/2017 according to the picture data), not sure when the timetable may have changed (It was on a trip to the Hovercraft Museum Open weekend, and remember choosing that day so I could see the Fortuny as well)

I've been taking another look at the timetable for AT Ferries' Portsmouth-Bilbao service and there was indeed a departure from Portsmouth at 1200hrs on Sunday 3 September but I don't think it was 2017!  Actually I am unable to say whether it was 2006 or 2007.  AT had a high season and low season timetable and there were a number of Sunday departures from Portsmouth at 1200hrs in the rolling type T/T for the summer in question.  AT seem to have changed the subsequent low season T/T from what it had been to:

Ports-Bilbao. Departs every Monday & Thurs departing at 1200hrs arriving Bilbao 1700hrs next day.

Bilbao-Ports.  Departs every Tuesday & Saturday -- departing Tues at 2100hrs arriving Ports at 0700hrs on Thursday and departing Saturday at 1700hrs and arriving Ports 2330hrs on Sunday.

Whether this was what AT wanted and what their T/T would have been in the next high season I don't know.  All I can say is their cruiseferry Fortuny came in at 0700hrs, unloaded and sailed immediately light, I.e empty, for a Mediterranean destination.  Maybe they were not happy with the berthing slots they were offered at Ports and thus were rather discourteous in not giving the management there advance notice of their intention to close the service.  As Pride of Bilbao was withdrawn not that long after maybe AT should have hung in there.

Subsequently LD Lines had a go -- but involving different ports.

Incidentally Acciona Trasmediterranea called themselves "AT Ferries" for marketing purposes in this country.

 

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Slight correction to what was said above.  Im sure it has been said before, but LD pulled out of the cross-Biscay Montoir service as they couldn't get an extension to their MoS funding, which was making that part of the the operation viable despite good loads.  This was the only part of their ferry service receiving a subsidy.   At the time the service was competing with low road transport costs for the same journey and so couldn't charge the ticket prices to break even without subsidy, as it would have been more expensive than the alternative of driving.  Around the same time though Suardiaz received a MoS grant to add a second vessel to their competing service, and in late 2015 (after LD had called it a day) were even awarded a total of some €27m in additional funding from the governments and the EU (€3m of the amount was another MoS grant) to ensure their service continued.  Add into that continual technical problems and very poor weather LD experienced (causing cancellations and a loss of reputation with customers), increased competition from new services, and Suardiaz being able to swallow up the export vehicle traffic that LD had, it isn't hard to see why LD lost heart in the operation.  Im sure they have much easier ways of making money, but it does seem they had the right idea after all.

Personally I feel if Balearia DO resurrect the service it will be with one of the Visentini units displaced by the new-builds and any resulting shuffle rather than a brand-new ship.

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On 27/08/2017 at 23:33, Hawser Trunnion said:

I think we ought to wait and see what happens over Gijon-Montoir.  I don't doubt the Port of Gijon is certainly pressing for its revival as I believe they built an entirely new ferry facility away from the centre of town which included a brand new linkspan from Ravestein of the Netherlands costing millions.  Presumably this is now standing idle.

The problem with LD Lines was their lack of constancy.  They just seem to mess about and never stuck at anything for very long.  This was very manifest on the English Channel and proved to be so with their Biscay services as well.  I would agree they were unlucky in various ways, e.g. Norman Leader, but even so they were not a dependable company.  I believe their parent company, Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, an investment and financial group, just gave up on direct involvement in shipping activities and decided to revert to their original, rather less high profile, role.  I don't really know why they got involved in the Bay of Biscay unless it was for the subsidy.  I believe there were demands in Spain they pay some of it back after LD closed down.

So now we wait to see what, if anything, transpires with Balearia but why do they want two ropaxes in such a hurry that they are reviving a series of ships which everyone thought had finished in order to save time and expedite matters?

Balearia don't necessarily want these 2 vessels to take on the Montoir route though, or necessarily even operate any new route (though I suspect their arrival will result in additions to the route network).  Remember the Visentini's they have at present are on charter, including Sicilia and Napoles from Stena, and Balearia are in the process of a fleet-modernisation program - one of the goals of which seems to be to convert the fleet to LNG (something they can't do to chartered tonnage unless the owner agrees).  While I don't doubt that there is some substance in these rumours, the fact remains that Suardiaz are still operating their service on a subsidy (from the top of my head until 2022) with much lower overheads than operating a passenger vessel, so it is hard to see how Balearia can make an additional service which also carries passengers pay without significant subsidy, particularly given the ticket pricing considerations I outlined above. 

As for reviving a series of ships everyone thought was finished, not everyone thought Visentini had finished!  The Visentini family group of companies have complex relationship, and remember that most of the previous RoPax vessels were ordered by companies owned or controlled by members of the Visentini family who then chartered them out.  Much of the new tonnage in recent years has been roro units (FSG and China getting the lions share of that business), and the unfortunate events involving NORMAN ATLANTIC and SORRENTO probably haven't helped either.  The yard hasn't been totally idle in any case, building a couple of cargo vessels for Nordana that have more than a passing resemblance to the RoPax series.  It is perhaps also worth bearing in mind that Balearia publicly stated a few months ago that they plan a big expansion on Moroccan routes (involving Spain and Italy) over the next number of years, and the majority of the EUR450m in investment in tonnage and ports over the next 5 years they announced is already spoken for.  Of course there is always the charter market, but options there aren't exactly plentiful and the situation isn't showing many signs of getting any better in the next few years.

Theres no doubt there were mistakes with the management of LD lines, however my point is that their demise wasn't entirely their own doing and as I mentioned before loads were good to very good on the Gijon sector despite all the issues.  Even with good loads they couldn't make the service pay without subsidy, and that was before Suardiaz got their larger subsidy to add a second vessel (thus swallowing up the steady income of the car export contracts).  Have things really changed enough to ensure another service can pay its way over the long term with one vessel never mind two without subsidy?  The port of Gijon wouldn't be the first to spend a fortune on a new facility for it to go unused unfortunately (looking at you, Boulogne).  They can want a service with all the will in the world, it doesn't mean anyone will take it on.  As you say, its a case of wait and see.  

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Yes, it is a question of wait and see and Life is full of surprises.  One might pose the question why do Balearia want these Visentinis in such a hurry?  Could they not have been ordered with a more normal time frame applying.  "Shippaxinfo" suggested they went to Visentini because they wanted them quickly and this yard would do the business.  Maybe Balearia know something we don't.  Trasmediterranea didn't rule out a return to the English Channel when they pulled out ten years ago but whether they would be welcome at Portsmouth in view of the circumstances of that withdrawal could be controversial.

I think there were those at Poole who thought LD weren't trying very hard which was a shame because the service seemed to be doing well in terms of carpax.  Otherwise re freight but then it does seem they had decided to terminate GLD Atlantique some time before it happened.

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8 hours ago, Hawser Trunnion said:

I think there were those at Poole who thought LD weren't trying very hard which was a shame.

To be fair I don't think LD or indeed BF were helped by the need unload and then park up vessels in Poole Bay while they shared RoRo 3. With the new developments at Poole this is of course a problem that will no longer exist. 

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47 minutes ago, G4rth said:

To be fair I don't think LD or indeed BF were helped by the need unload and then park up vessels in Poole Bay while they shared RoRo 3. With the new developments at Poole this is of course a problem that will no longer exist. 

Indeed.  Especially as it is a long way from the.berth at Poole out to the bay.   The availability of what could act as a layby berth in such situations can only be helpful.

Of course, the need to "park up" is only because Barfleur operates such a light timetable.  If she unloaded, reloaded and then set sail again (like most ferries do), rather than spent the night alongside, they wouldn't have had the problem either.

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10 hours ago, tarbyonline said:

Balearia don't necessarily want these 2 vessels to take on the Montoir route though, or necessarily even operate any new route (though I suspect their arrival will result in additions to the route network).  Remember the Visentini's they have at present are on charter, including Sicilia and Napoles from Stena, and Balearia are in the process of a fleet-modernisation program - one of the goals of which seems to be to convert the fleet to LNG (something they can't do to chartered tonnage unless the owner agrees).  While I don't doubt that there is some substance in these rumours, the fact remains that Suardiaz are still operating their service on a subsidy (from the top of my head until 2022) with much lower overheads than operating a passenger vessel, so it is hard to see how Balearia can make an additional service which also carries passengers pay without significant subsidy, particularly given the ticket pricing considerations I outlined above. 

As for reviving a series of ships everyone thought was finished, not everyone thought Visentini had finished!  The Visentini family group of companies have complex relationship, and remember that most of the previous RoPax vessels were ordered by companies owned or controlled by members of the Visentini family who then chartered them out.  Much of the new tonnage in recent years has been roro units (FSG and China getting the lions share of that business), and the unfortunate events involving NORMAN ATLANTIC and SORRENTO probably haven't helped either.  The yard hasn't been totally idle in any case, building a couple of cargo vessels for Nordana that have more than a passing resemblance to the RoPax series.  It is perhaps also worth bearing in mind that Balearia publicly stated a few months ago that they plan a big expansion on Moroccan routes (involving Spain and Italy) over the next number of years, and the majority of the EUR450m in investment in tonnage and ports over the next 5 years they announced is already spoken for.  Of course there is always the charter market, but options there aren't exactly plentiful and the situation isn't showing many signs of getting any better in the next few years.

Theres no doubt there were mistakes with the management of LD lines, however my point is that their demise wasn't entirely their own doing and as I mentioned before loads were good to very good on the Gijon sector despite all the issues.  Even with good loads they couldn't make the service pay without subsidy, and that was before Suardiaz got their larger subsidy to add a second vessel (thus swallowing up the steady income of the car export contracts).  Have things really changed enough to ensure another service can pay its way over the long term with one vessel never mind two without subsidy?  The port of Gijon wouldn't be the first to spend a fortune on a new facility for it to go unused unfortunately (looking at you, Boulogne).  They can want a service with all the will in the world, it doesn't mean anyone will take it on.  As you say, its a case of wait and see.  

Baleria are the preferred carrier for the new 2 year MoS subsidy, they have also stated that one of the new build LNG powered Visentini's will also be used. Jose Llorca president of Puerto Estado, Fernando Lastra Director of Infrastructures & Carmen Moriyón, Gijon's Mayor have confirmed this. It will be ratified in September & co signed by Laureano Lourido the head of Gijon's port authority.

This is what Llorca said:

 "It can be viable from a different point of view to those of Vigo and Santander because it is a complementary and non-substitute line of the road: it is accompanied by transport, the transporters get into the boat, and it is compatible with traffics associated with tourism It is also the only one that can be considered as a true motorway of the sea, because it meets the frequencies necessary for a single ship.

 

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8 minutes ago, jonno said:

Baleria are the preferred carrier for the new 2 year MoS subsidy, they have also stated that one of the new build LNG powered Visentini's will also be used. Jose Llorca president of Puerto Estado, Fernando Lastra Director of Infrastructures & Carmen Moriyón, Gijon's Mayor have confirmed this. It will be ratified in September & co signed by Laureano Lourido the head of Gijon's port authority.

This is what Llorca said:

 "It can be viable from a different point of view to those of Vigo and Santander because it is a complementary and non-substitute line of the road: it is accompanied by transport, the transporters get into the boat, and it is compatible with traffics associated with tourism It is also the only one that can be considered as a true motorway of the sea, because it meets the frequencies necessary for a single ship.

 

They hope!  Is this going to be a triumph of Hope over Experience? LD did acknowledge they couldn't run their Gijon-Montoir service without a subsidy to cover the losses  it would make.  Hence expanding into other routes I've always assumed, viz. Gijon/Santander-Poole and Montoir-Rosslare which would make money eventually to make up for the losses incurred on Gijon-Montoir.

I note the subsidy is for just two years.  This isn't very long and what happens after that?  I suppose they've thought about this but then maybe Balearia have other, thus far, undisclosed plans.

I thought the subsidy in fact was coming from Spanish governmental sources, state, region and city, and was not an EU initiative under their Motorway of the Sea scheme.  The view has been forward that it would be illogical for the EU to subsidise two, parallel, services though the Spanish evidently see a difference.

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4 hours ago, Hawser Trunnion said:

They hope!  Is this going to be a triumph of Hope over Experience? LD did acknowledge they couldn't run their Gijon-Montoir service without a subsidy to cover the losses  it would make.  Hence expanding into other routes I've always assumed, viz. Gijon/Santander-Poole and Montoir-Rosslare which would make money eventually to make up for the losses incurred on Gijon-Montoir.

I note the subsidy is for just two years.  This isn't very long and what happens after that?  I suppose they've thought about this but then maybe Balearia have other, thus far, undisclosed plans.

I thought the subsidy in fact was coming from Spanish governmental sources, state, region and city, and was not an EU initiative under their Motorway of the Sea scheme.  The view has been forward that it would be illogical for the EU to subsidise two, parallel, services though the Spanish evidently see a difference.

LD didn't have the advantage of a new common inter-modal rail gauge covering the whole northern coastline suitable for unaccompanied freight nor the benefit of a combined political focus to shift toward a more seaborne rather than road based transport network. Remember that Spain want to reduce road based TEU's transiting France by 800,000 units pa. They must go on someone's ships, it may as well be Baleria's from Gijon and BF's from Zierbena not to mention the new opportunities which will spring from the total rebuilding of Pasajes.

 Baleria will also enjoy a huge windfall for burning LNG rather than MDO.

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5 hours ago, jonno said:

LD didn't have the advantage of a new common inter-modal rail gauge covering the whole northern coastline suitable for unaccompanied freight nor the benefit of a combined political focus to shift toward a more seaborne rather than road based transport network. Remember that Spain want to reduce road based TEU's transiting France by 800,000 units pa. They must go on someone's ships, it may as well be Baleria's from Gijon and BF's from Zierbena not to mention the new opportunities which will spring from the total rebuilding of Pasajes.

 Baleria will also enjoy a huge windfall for burning LNG rather than MDO.

I think one should distinguish between pax and vehicle ferries and the carriage of goods by sea in the roro mode.  The two aren't necessarily the same, I would venture to suggest, although they may have a lot in common.  Could it be that it's the pax and vehicle element that causes the bulk of the losses and it will be that which will be the big problem on Gijon-Montoir.  It would seem Balearia are intending to establish a car and pax ferry service on this route.

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