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Brexit effect on BF

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The Le Havre route carries on average 200 passengers in each direction per crossing, about 400 a day.  On paper this is right up Cotentin's street especially with her added freight capacity... Her owners have concluded that using a 2000 pax night ferry which is 15 years older is the more viable cost option so I think that answers the question of whether she'll be returning anytime soon. 

SOMACOT - SOC Maritime d'armament du Cotentin,  the oft' mentioned owners of her hasn't existed since 29th Sept' 2008.

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In my view Cotentin was (with invaluable hindsight) one of the worst commercial decisions BF have ever made. At a cost of something like 80 million euros she was ordered in 2005 when the world economy was thriving and delivered at the end of 2007 just as we were entering one of the worst financial crises in living memory and the bottom then falls out of the freight market, so right ship, wrong time. In hindsight a Visentini leased in freight only mode would have been a much better option, allowing 80M € of investment to be put towards building the much more important Bretagne 2. Now that she is in full Stena colours I imagine (although I can't confirm this) Stena took up the option to purchase her at the end of the initial 5 year leasing deal in 2018, so I think the the likelihood of seeing her again in the Western Channel in the forseeable future is almost nill.

Now if only I had a crystal ball ......:S

Chris

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23 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Do you mean Portsmouth-Le Havre Jonno, or are you validating LHC’s suggestion of Rosslare-Le Havre?

Sorry Gareth, yes Portmouth to Le Havre. Etretat is configured to carry very few passengers and is regularly only half full in these terms. If BF didn't see a future for Cotentin as the start up vessel for when they began that route I can't really see a future for her under BF anywhere.

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10 minutes ago, Fine Whine said:

Now that she is in full Stena colours I imagine (although I can't confirm this)

She is Chris.

stena-baltica_9364978_2212029_Large.thumb.jpg.ea05ae22d7972600a802da84503475e3.jpg

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Just now, jonno said:

She is Chris.

stena-baltica_9364978_2212029_Large.thumb.jpg.ea05ae22d7972600a802da84503475e3.jpg

Thanks Jonno, I managed to get the "can't confirm" bit in the wrong place! - do you have any info about whether Stena actually own her now?

Chris 

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Just now, Fine Whine said:

Thanks Jonno, I managed to get the "can't confirm" bit in the wrong place! - do you have any info about whether Stena actually own her now?

Chris 

With the time I have I've searched long and hard and found nothing. The only info I've discovered relating to a Stena Baltica is the United States Securities and Exchange Commission report but I think that is regarding the ship they Sold to SNAV.

I'm more inclined to think that her sale will be completed when Honfleur is officially handed over using the money to repay the 8 years remaining on Cotentin's finance and to offset some of the €92 million the banks handed over for the FSG new build and some of the €50m the EIB handed over too.

Personally I think the Group will then look again at the EIB and the banks in order to finance a St Malo new build.

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36 minutes ago, Fine Whine said:

Thanks Jonno, I managed to get the "can't confirm" bit in the wrong place! - do you have any info about whether Stena actually own her now?

Chris 

SOMANOR is still listed as her registered owner. The registered manager interestingly enough (for those of us interested in Stena's internal mechanics) is Stena Line BV at Hoek.

The ship remains unsuitable for BF passengers without modification to her cabins and, probably, other increases in capacity so it would be back as a pure accompanied freighter; it's a bit of a stretch in my view that Stena sell her to the 'general public' although her crossing times aren't particularly favourable so she doesn't get much uptake.

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Hhv do you know if BF has the contractual right to recall Cotentin even if they wanted to (which I agree is unlikely)?

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31 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Hhv do you know if BF has the contractual right to recall Cotentin even if they wanted to (which I agree is unlikely)?

Anyone remember what happened when they recalled Barfleur from DFDS - I of all people cannot remember.  Was she recalled at the end of her charter or during?  I know it was all of a sudden.

Edited by Khaines

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Given that contracts are commercially sensitive and not published who knows what the contract says.

Re the start of the Le Havre service, it was just a paint job and the Norman Voyager became the Etretat on the same route ! I like it as a night crossing with the original timetable which it is returning to !

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15 minutes ago, Khaines said:

Anyone remember what happened when they recalled Barfleur from DFDS - I of all people cannot remember.  Was she recalled at the end of her charter or during?  I know it was all of a sudden.

I don't know if its in this thread what actually happened as i have not read the thread properly. But this is the archived thread about her return.

 

https://bfenthusiasts.com/bfe/topic/8205-barfleur-to-return-in-2013/

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1 hour ago, Gareth said:

Hhv do you know if BF has the contractual right to recall Cotentin even if they wanted to (which I agree is unlikely)?

Even if they could, I cannot imagine they would want to sour the Stena relationship in any way, A Frieght roro must come pretty low down the scale against their entire prospective Spanish fleet. Of course the Eflexers are guaranteed, and it may be possible to have their cake and eat it, but I think they'd have to be pretty desperate before they did.

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According to a report on TF1 news this evening, the number of Brits crossing the channel this summer is down 10% on last year and BF has carried 110,000 fewer passengers too. Jean-Marc Roue was interviewed for the report and they kept about 5 seconds of him saying something that I didn't catch but probably wasn't earth-shattering. The Cotentin region is planning a campaign to attract more Bits over. Those tourists interviewed said that France seemed expensive given the current exchange rate but apart from staying in the British Isles there is nowhere they can really go to avoid exchanging their currency except Gibraltar or the Falklands!  Ed. 

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2 hours ago, Gareth said:

Hhv do you know if BF has the contractual right to recall Cotentin even if they wanted to (which I agree is unlikely)?

No idea but it would be a canny operator who got one over Stena in the contract department.

I imagine it was fixed length with options which may be in favour of the charterer. Stena seem happy enough with her, when we sailed on her last year the officer overseeing embarkation called her, "our special ship".

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On 25/08/2019 at 11:19, Gareth said:

The old ICL schedule was an 1800 departure 5 days per week (the other 2 days they ran to Cherbourg).  The ICL passage time was 21 hours.  The Rosslare departure was at 1700.

As for whether this is likely to happen, it is worth mentioning just 3 things.  One is that LD tried it relatively recently and quickly dropped it.  Two is that Rosslare is not a BF port.  And three is that if they thought there was anything in it they would probably have already done it by now.

Back in the ICL days, ICL was the only operator sailing between Ireland and France (apart from BF’s token once per week Cork sailing).  Now, between IF and Stena, there is already a daily sailing in each direction to and from Cherbourg.

Cherbourg is further away from Paris and Le Havre is France's largest port for goods. Taking the ferry to Le Havre for Ireland would considerably reduce the distance by road from Paris, East and South of France. Le Havre is directly connected to highways contrary to Cherbourg. So you compare the current situation or it is easy to reach Ireland via Calais. Tomorrow with Brexit, it will certainly be easier to reach Le Havre to go directly to Ireland (Rosslare). Le Havre / Rosslare could work in addition to Cherbourg with one departure per day and per direction (two boats needed). Ex Pride Of Le Havre and Pride Of Portsmouth could have been suitable.

Edited by LHCity

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6 hours ago, jonno said:

The Le Havre route carries on average 200 passengers in each direction per crossing, about 400 a day.  On paper this is right up Cotentin's street especially with her added freight capacity... Her owners have concluded that using a 2000 pax night ferry which is 15 years older is the more viable cost option so I think that answers the question of whether she'll be returning anytime soon. 

SOMACOT - SOC Maritime d'armament du Cotentin,  the oft' mentioned owners of her hasn't existed since 29th Sept' 2008.

"Etretat" is not a attractive ferry to cross the chanel especially during the day. "Normandie" can change the attractivity of shorter route than Ouistreham.

So, the new schedules of the Portsmouth / Le Havre route are really perfect. All that's missing is good ferry, with Normandie.

 

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42 minutes ago, LHCity said:

"Etretat" is not a attractive ferry to cross the chanel especially during the day. "Normandie" can change the attractivity of shorter route than Ouistreham.

So, the new schedules of the Portsmouth / Le Havre route are really perfect. All that's missing is good ferry, with Normandie.

 

Yes I appreciate that Etretat isn't the answer and having a ship similar in stature to P&O's Pride of Le Havre returning will be good for a city which is actively investing money on infrastructure and the port but being attractive and being cost effective aren't mutually exclusive. I think BF will need to adjust her capacity to reflect her berth total in a similar way to CF.

With her freight reduction she'll invariably always be full and carrying just 775 passengers would offer travellers a great deal of personal and public space. For me, using that configuration she'd be a very attractive option.

She's also very straight forward to load and unload, I wonder what effect this will have on turnaround times? 

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7 hours ago, jonno said:

She's also very straight forward to load and unload, I wonder what effect this will have on turnaround times? 

Not much, I wouldn’t have thought.  The Le Havre ship already turns around in 90 minutes at the Portsmouth end, and 90 minutes is the same as the turnround time for the Caen ships.  I can’t see that being reduced.  The Le Havre ship could turn round in 90 minutes at Le Havre, too, if BF wanted her to.  But the current scheduling (using a single ship) does not require that.

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9 hours ago, LHCity said:

Cherbourg is further away from Paris and Le Havre is France's largest port for goods. Taking the ferry to Le Havre for Ireland would considerably reduce the distance by road from Paris, East and South of France. Le Havre is directly connected to highways contrary to Cherbourg.

That is indeed all true.  But ICL/IF (can’t remember what guise the company was in at the time of the decision), after many years of experience of operating to Le Havre, made a decision to drop the route in preference for a service exclusively to Cherbourg.  There must have been a reason (or a combination of reasons?) why they did that.

Question is, how much of the factors that led to that decision have now changed?  The geography and road connectivity of the ports has not changed.  The price of fuel has only gone up (which would further enhance the case for Cherbourg).  Port charges I don’t know about.  What I do know is that high berthing charges was the main reason P&O cited for closing down their Le Havre route, so is it possible that Le Havre also priced itself out of the market for ICL when that decision was taken?  If the port of Le Havre has since made its berthing fees more competitive against Cherbourg then maybe that could enhance the case for a revived service to Le Havre.

What about the effect of Brexit?  I agree that there could be an increased volume of traffic between Ireland and France.  Does that change the economics of Le Havre versus Cherbourg?  I guess that partly depends on what traffic is likely to switch to bypassing the UK landbridge.  If it is traffic that would have gone to Portsmouth to cross to France then I’d expect an increased frequency of service to Cherbourg to suffice.  However, if a large proportion of the landbridge traffic switching was traffic that would have headed to Dover, to cross to Calais or Dunkerque, then quite possibly the demand may be there for a service to a port east of Cherbourg.  Le Havre may be in prime position for that, provided it does not price itself out of the market.

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A few comments

1) I have never understood the attraction of Cherbourg (except for the size), apart from the Cotetin Peninsular, what destination is better served from Cherbourg than St Malo, Ouistreham or Le Havre ?

2) The main delays in Le Havre are due to the Local Police that rollup to do Passport Control - maybe if Le Havre was used more there would be more full time staff, however I do find it strange to have a dock that requires someone to use a boat to secure the mooring rope.

3) I hope that BF have decent plans to cope with the reintroduction of duty free (complete with the stocking of Smirnoff Blue !)

Edited by David Williams
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On 28/08/2019 at 18:26, David Williams said:

1) I have never understood the attraction of Cherbourg (except for the size), apart from the Cotetin Peninsular, what destination is better served from Cherbourg than St Malo, Ouistreham or Le Havre ?

Yes, for travel from the UK, where all those options are possible, I agree.  In fact, it became more and more apparent during the last years of P&O that the days of Cherbourg as a primary destination from the UK were over.  Probably mainly due to the rise of Ouistreham.

However, for a service from Ireland, where the level of traffic doesn’t justify separate routes to all of those other ports, Cherbourg is an understandably appealing compromise that does the job of serving all custom reasonably well.  There would have to be a big increase in traffic to warrant multiple different routes to France.  But you never know, maybe that increase in custom will appear.

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1 hour ago, Gareth said:

Yes, for travel from the UK, where all those options are possible, I agree.  In fact, it became more and more apparent during the last years of P&O that the days of Cherbourg as a primary destination from the UK were over.  Probably mainly due to the rise of Ouistreham.

 

A real shame that P&O left the Western channel having 2 ships to Le Havre & for a short time a fastcat to Ouistreham was good competition.

Edited by David Williams

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13 hours ago, David Williams said:

A real shame that P&O left the Western channel having 2 ships to Le Havre & for a short time a fastcat to Ouistreham was good competition.

Wrong ships chartered and chronic reluctance to invest in appropriate new tonnage.  I want to say destroyed TT’s legacy, but in truth TT had already started to do that themselves when they went off the rails after 1983.  Jumboisation of Venturer and Valiant was a mistake.  Fabulous ships in their day, but relied on for far too long past their prime, and the Olau twins were never the right answer to an intensive 3 sailings per day 5.5 hour route.

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On 28/08/2019 at 18:26, David Williams said:

1) I have never understood the attraction of Cherbourg (except for the size), apart from the Cotetin Peninsular, what destination is better served from Cherbourg than St Malo, Ouistreham or Le Havre ?

We nearly always used Cherbourg as our holiday route as a family in the 80s. It was a choice of that or Le Havre and it won because:

  • shorter crossing (but still long enough for a break) - any extra distance done in the car quickly neutralises when you spend less time sailing
  • a bit cheaper
  • we were nearly always holidaying in western France so little or no benefit from Le Havre in terms of travel time

All of those things still hold true if your destination is west or south of Paris and still hold true when you compare them to St Malo.  The only problem with Cherbourg now is getting to Poole!

Most of the above applies to hauliers too, though they of course need to factor in rest breaks too. 

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