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David Williams

BF operations to Le Havre (and related history!)

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5 hours ago, The Ferry Man said:

Ouch! I'm on the 25th... fingers crossed since thats one of the first after this block!

At least time of year there are alternatives and Ouistreham is normally strike free, however you only know they are on strike when they block access !

If this continues for much longer why would BF continue with Le Havre ?

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It is worth remembering that P&O left Le Havre because they felt forced out by the port.  (Berthing fees in that case, but it illustrates the importance of ports, in all respects, being welcoming of their customers).  
 

And it was the frequency of industrial disruption that was, in the end, the final straw that led to the downfall of Southampton as a ferry port.

So, yes, there is only so far that the goodwill of operators can be stretched, and if BF decides that it can do without the hassle of dealing with Le Havre then those causing all this trouble will only have themselves to blame.

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57 minutes ago, Gareth said:

It is worth remembering that P&O left Le Havre because they felt forced out by the port.  (Berthing fees in that case, but it illustrates the importance of ports, in all respects, being welcoming of their customers). 

I don't remember them saying they felt forced out; the operation was loss making and they announced they were closing three other routes at the same time?

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They stated that the port fees we too high and that port of Le Havre refused to discuss coming to an arrangement.  But I’m sure other factors played into the economics not working as well....not least running two very expensive ferries that were not suited to the route.

Not sure which other routes you are referring to.  Nothing else closed at exactly the same time as Le Havre, but Portsmouth - Le Havre became the last of a string of former TT routes that P&O closed in the preceding decade and a half.  Including Portsmouth-Cherbourg, Dover-Boulogne, Dover-Zeebrugge and Felixstowe-Zeebrugge, all of which were already closed by the time P&O pulled the plug on Le Havre.

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5 minutes ago, Gareth said:

They stated that the port fees we too high and that port of Le Havre refused to discuss coming to an arrangement.  But I’m sure other factors played into the economics not working as well....not least running two very expensive ferries that were not suited to the route.

Not sure which other routes you are referring to.  Nothing else closed at exactly the same time as Le Havre, but Portsmouth - Le Havre became the last of a string of former TT routes that P&O closed in the first half of the decade.  Including Portsmouth-Cherbourg, Dover-Zeebrugge and Felixstowe-Zeebrugge, all of which were already closed by the time P&O pulled the plug on Le Havre.

The Le Havre route closure was announced at the same time as the Cherbourg route, the one year wonder Ouistreham fast cat route and the Cherbourg-Rosslare route. It lasted for another year after them because P&O planned to pass it and the ships on to BF as a sort of going concern but, in the end, never did. They may have mentioned port fees previously but they weren't mentioned when the wholesale closures were announced and were probably marginal to the overall profitability, or not, of the route - as you say obscene charter fees for a pair of sub-optimal ships might have been more important!

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David - after they announced the closure of the route there was a plan hatched for BF to take it over using the same ferries.  But that plan fell through (BF pulled out) for reasons that are a separate discussion.

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Yes hhv - there was a one year gap between Le Havre and Cherbourg.  I agree the initial announcements were made at the same time.  I can’t remember whether Le Havre had a stay of execution or whether Cherbourg was brought forward and shelved early.

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Either way, as you say, they formed part of a long pattern of P&O closing routes down.  A lot of the problems with the economics of them really harks back to years of failure to invest in appropriate new tonnage.  And that goes back to pre-P&O days.

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Seine Maritime pay into SOMANOR, the route and ship are going nowhere. As for the French, strikes are an occupational hazard and treated with fair degree of ambivalence... unlike us Brits.

It's also winter so capacities are low anyway.

I Thought two of P&O's channel routes, Rosslare-Cherbourg and PIP-Cherbourg were retained by Celtic & BAI and they closed two at the same time (Caen & Le Havre). They also shut down their Fleetwood - Larne service.

They closed Mostyn too in the same period but I think that was down to dredging issues which also effected Airbus and then sold a few ships to Stena.

Worse thing they did was incorporate all of the companies back in '98.

 

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Celtic Link did briefly try incorporating Portsmouth-Cherbourg into their Rosslare ship schedules, but that was some time after P&O closed the route.  Several years after - Norman Voyager was involved, so it must have been at least 2007.

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Several former TT/P&O routes still exist today, in some evolved form or other, after being taken over by other companies.  Jonno mentions Rosslare-Cherbourg.  The other big one was Felixstowe-Europoort, which was taken over by Stena and has morphed into their Harwich-Europoort operation today.  The only routes still operated by P&O are Dover-Calais and Cairnryan-Larne.

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Just realised this is the Sailings Updates thread, and we have got into quite a discussion about Le Havre.  Will need to look at breaking this discussion off into its own thread.

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Rosslare and Portsmouth-Cherbourg and Portsmouth-Ouistreham closed at the same time. The Diplomat and her route passed to Celtic Link. The Fleetwood-Larne route was sold to Stena in 2004 and they eventually closed it at essentially the same time they got the Heysham-Belfast route from DFDS (and after the plan for replacing the old Fleetwood ships with newbuillds fell through).

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24 minutes ago, hhvferry said:

Rosslare and Portsmouth-Cherbourg and Portsmouth-Ouistreham closed at the same time. The Diplomat and her route passed to Celtic Link. The Fleetwood-Larne route was sold to Stena in 2004 and they eventually closed it at essentially the same time they got the Heysham-Belfast route from DFDS (and after the plan for replacing the old Fleetwood ships with newbuillds fell through).

None of those were routes that were acquired through the TT takeover, although Rosslare - Cherbourg was operated throughout its P&O time using displaced former TT ferries.

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21 minutes ago, Gareth said:

None of those were routes that were acquired through the TT takeover, although Rosslare - Cherbourg was operated throughout its P&O time using displaced former TT ferries.

Well I didn't mention whether they were TT legacy routes or not - but now that you have, Portsmouth-Cherbourg was a TT route ;)

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1 hour ago, Gareth said:

Several former TT/P&O routes still exist today, in some evolved form or other, after being taken over by other companies.  Jonno mentions Rosslare-Cherbourg.  The other big one was Felixstowe-Europoort, which was taken over by Stena and has morphed into their Harwich-Europoort operation today.  The only routes still operated by P&O are Dover-Calais and Cairnryan-Larne.

P&O at Felixstowe is an interesting one when you consider that they stopped passenger services around '96 when still carrying 500,000 a year. When they sold to Stena they then said that the route was unprofitable and freight was poor.

I wonder why then within 4 years Stena had ordered both Britannica & Hollandica?

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5 minutes ago, jonno said:

P&O at Felixstowe is an interesting one when you consider that they stopped passenger services around '96 when still carrying 500,000 a year. When they sold to Stena they then said that the route was unprofitable and freight was poor.

I wonder why then within 4 years Stena had ordered both Britannica & Hollandica?

The Harwich-Rotterdam route with Stena has had its ups and downs - they carried on with the old P&O ships for a while, retired them, then brought in two much larger ships without significant driver accommodation; traffic decline meant they were far too big after a while and since then it's been maintained by chartered or secondary tonnage although things are less marginal than they used to be. Although never officially stated, the Rotterdam and Larne routes were seemingly makeweights in the deal which saw P&O buy out Stena at Dover.

Are we off topic from Le Havre yet? xD

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10 minutes ago, jonno said:

P&O at Felixstowe is an interesting one when you consider that they stopped passenger services around '96 when still carrying 500,000 a year. When they sold to Stena they then said that the route was unprofitable and freight was poor.

I wonder why then within 4 years Stena had ordered both Britannica & Hollandica?

The Zeebrugge route was the passenger-carrying one until it went freight-only in 1996.  Much of the tonnage that P&O used to operate it as a freight-only route became the tonnage that Ferryways used to open Ipswich-Ostend.  In retrospect, this must have been a direct reaction to the closure of Felixstowe-Zeebrugge.

The route that Stena acquired from P&O was the Europoort one, which was always (apart from a brief flirtation with passengers in 1979) freight-only.  When P&O sold this to Stena I believe it was a profitable going concern.  But P&O just decided they wanted out of Felixstowe.

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5 minutes ago, hhvferry said:

Are we off topic from Le Havre yet?

We could do with starting topics on all of them especially ports such as Felixstowe & Harwich and how the TT/P&O & Sealink/Stena services morphed into one.

Your mention of Heysham again adds interest as it didn't form part of the HMG Sealink sale to Sea Containers then eventually on to Stena but the latter now run a successful freight service from there.

As a link to TT, Sealink and another route closure for a reason I can't fathom there's the Earl William which I sailed on from Liverpool to Dun Laoghaire in the late '80's only for the route to close not long after she'd had a major refit. I don't think Stena kept her for long after the takeover?

4 minutes ago, Gareth said:

 But P&O just decided they wanted out of Felixstowe.

Again though with such strong pax numbers why stop the service? You could also say the same for the PIP-Cherbourg route, P&O were carrying 750,000 passengers a year when they announced the closure.

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Earl William had a major refit to fit her out in circa 1985 for the Sunliner luxury Portsmouth-CI route.  Did she then have another one prior to Holyhead?  Or was that just a way of making use of a ship they had already refitted?

As an aside (another one - why not?! 🤣), it strikes me that Viking II / Earl William had a rather sad and unlucky career.  Disposed of early by her original owners (only did around 12 years with TT).  Then kept running aground at St Helier when she inaugurated Portsmouth - CI for Sealink.  Then the Sunliner fiasco which resulted in the closing of all Sealink CI services.  Then her period as a prison ship at Harwich (which included being blown from her moorings in the 1987 hurricane).  Then her part in ending the Holyhead-Dun Laogjaire ferry service.  Then years of use as a static hotel in Trinidad before being sunk in a storm in the Caribbean as a result of a collision with her towing vessel.  Contrast that with the fortunes of her younger sister, still going strong after more than 50 years in service.

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Just realised I’ve answered my own question.  She was a prison ship between Starliner and Holyhead, so she must have had another major refit.

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42 minutes ago, hhvferry said:

Are we off topic from Le Havre yet? xD

I fixed the title.  Everything’s on topic now! 😀

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58 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Just realised I’ve answered my own question.  She was a prison ship between Starliner and Holyhead, so she must have had another major refit.

She didn't have a major refit, they just tidied her up a bit. And to be fair she wasn't a prison ship as such, she was an immigrant detention ship.

Nigel at Dover Ferry Photos has a couple of interesting pictures of her in this phase - they eventually painted Sealink or British Ferries, whichever she was carrying before she went there, off her hull:

http://www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk/mv-viking-ii-past-and-present/

bar00218-500x337.jpg

bar00316-500x337.jpg

After she left Sealink it was one disaster after another. She was laid up in Bari from 1997 to 2001, near the ex-Cambridge Ferry and later joined in port by the ex-Cerdic Ferry, neither of which sailed again apart from for scrap. Then she went to Trogir in Croatia where she spent another three or four years laid up before finally going to Trinidad where she had more misadventures, was arrested again, converted into a party ship (which seemed to do quite well) before that incident where she collided with a drill rig and precipitated one of the biggest maritime insurance claims of the year. In contrast her sisters had rather more productive post-UK lives.

Whilst passing through Trogir in 2003 we went to the shipyard to try and get a visit on board. Unfortunately it was a Sunday and the captain who was looking after her was away for the weekend - the yard said any other day and it would have been fine as he literally had nothing better to do than sit around all day and would have welcomed the distraction of showing us around. In the end she is one ship I never managed to get on board.

Here's a couple of pictures on flickr of her as Ocean Pearl in Trinidiad - somewhat different to the Smugglers Cave bar and Commandant Restaurant although those chairs in the restaurant image date back to the Starliner refit!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ttshipbuildingandrepair/albums/72157626248455764/

And a review of a night on board, including the observation, "Now it being a boat the overall ambiance was different especially with the low roof and all. The many support beams made throughout did play a good double role as "stripper poles" to the many showgirls present..."!

http://www.trinijunglejuice.com/tjjnews/articles/955/1/Hangover-Review/Page1.html

Edited by hhvferry
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Shouldn't this thread be more "lack of operations to le havre"?

BF nudged LD lines out the way, but you could also argue Le Havre as a route competes against it's own cash-cow Caen operation. I suppose the 'economy' sailings have helped to differentiate it. 

I do wonder what all the strikes will do in the long run. Surely it will damage the local economy if people see it as a risky choice. I doubt BF will ever pull out of Le Havre, but if they did, would another operator want to jump back in again? It seems to be the first affected port nowadays for strike action.

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