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The Future of Le Havre as a Ferry Port


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There has recently been a lot of discussion of a general and speculative nature about what may or may not / could or could not be in store for Le Havre in future as a ferry port.  Much of that discussion has been barely relevant to the various threads in which the topic has come up.  So I am creating this thread to be the conduit for future posts of a general and speculative nature about Le Havre.

If you want to pontificate on the status of Le Havre as the ultimate ferry port of all time, the future viability of various theoretical routes to Le Havre, the relative merits and demerits of Le Havre versus Caen or Cherbourg or Calais, the beauty of the road links to Le Havre, the thrill of crossing the River Seine, the obsession that the hauliers have with wishing in vain that they could sail there, or whatever, this is the forum for you!

There are too many posts already in the archive to deal with them retrospectively, but all future posts of a general and speculative nature, that are not relevant to the issue at hand in the thread in which they are posted, will be moved here.

There you go....no other port in BF history has had such an exalted position as its own thread.  Post away! 😀

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They only provide subsidy to ferry companies that don’t have Ferries.

In fact this thread has had more traffic in the last 18 hours than Le Havre has had all year. Ed. 

Ramsgate is looking for ferries as well as Le Havre. Is that a possible business opportunity for the ill fated Seaborne freight company, or for Mr Eiamunk who entertained persuasively for many months

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Just by way of follow-up to the OP.  I very much hope that Le Havre (as well as Cherbourg) has a thriving future as a ferry port.  Both ports are quintessentially linked to my childhood and hold a special place in my heart.  I was devastated with what P&O did to the Townsend Thoresen legacy, both in this arena and elsewhere.

My view is that the current vibes are not great, and that BF’s approach to the port has been one of going through the motions to provide some sort of token service for the sake of it.  And also that providing a token service for the sake of it is really a long way from what BF is interested in at the current time.  Understandably.  I’d go far as to say that, in my view, BF’s presence in Le Havre is really an obstacle to a proper ferry service being revived there.

I don’t really know what my feelings are about the possible prospect of BF pulling out.  In the short term, it would obviously be a blow.  In the long term, it might be just what the port needs.

Time will tell.  To properly evaluate the future potential of Le Havre (and Cherbourg), I guess one really has to understand the reasons for their demise.  And on that score, I feel a bit in the dark.  I don’t really understand what those reasons were.

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Brittany Ferries developed on the ruins of P&O in Cherbourg and Le Havre. LD Lines / DFDS never did anything to develop the route and were competing with a subsidized offer in Dieppe, at the expense of Le Havre.  Unlike P&O and other competitors, BF is not there to feed shareholders. Where it works economically for BF, it was no longer tenable for stock market companies like P1O [...]  BF has a very strong relationship with local authorities, that's why I don't believe in a withdrawal from Brittany Ferries in Le Havre. The department of Seine Maritime is now a shareholder of SOMANOR and Le Havre is the largest city in Seine Maritime. I do not see how BF can justify a withdrawal from Le Havre when next door, Dieppe works less well and is subsidized by the department !!!

For me the real relaunch of Le Havre may be through a takeover of Dieppe / Newhaven by Brittany Ferries. One could imagine a Dieppe service - Newhaven - Le Havre and a service Le Havre - Portsmouth - Cherbourg, offering 3 cumulative departures per day from Le Havre (1 to 2 to Portsmouth and 1 to 2 to Newhaven). The problem is the capacity of the Port of Newhaven. The lines from Le Havre only work well with ships with a lot of cabins.

The future of Le Havre and Cherbourg also depends on what happens in Calais and Dover. If it blocks, Le Havre and Cherbourg have a bright cross-Channel future. These two ports are capable of hosting long queues, which is not the case with Ouistreham for example (unless destroying the city;-) )

In any case, it is certain that the P&O model in Le Havre (which is also the BF model in Ouistreham) is the only winning business model: Quality frequencies and ships (may be too qualitative in the time of the P&O). The ideal for Le Havre would be to find 3 Transmanche departures per day in each direction and 1 departure per day France / Ireland in each direction. This requires 4 ships

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During the period of traffic recovery (2020-21), I will have seen a exploitation of NORMANDIE in Le Havre, in coordination with the MONT SAINT MICHEL in Ouistreham, while waiting to decide on the future ship intended to replace the HONFLEUR. On top of that, if you add the exploitation of the Cherbourg/Portsmouth route all year round, it widens the scope of possibilities and avoids the concentration on a single port (especially in anticipation of Brexit).

I think BF is forbidding this scheme for political reasons. BF is not ready to assume this with the port of Caen-Ouistreham and SOMANOR. Again, it demonstrates a very political posture 'a la Française', which was not P&O

Edited by LHCity
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36 minutes ago, LHCity said:

 The department of Seine Maritime is now a shareholder of SOMANOR and Le Havre is the largest city in Seine Maritime. 

A lot of assumptions in your posts I'm afraid. One thing though, Le Havre is not the most populated urban area in Seine Maritime, Rouen is the most populated one according to the INSEE (French equivalent of ONS) with almost 490,000 inhabitants . So following this logic we would have a BF service to Rouen....

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I think that Seine-Maritime is the only French department which still has two active international ferry ports in operation (now that Boulogne has ceased operating). All the other ports along the Channel (we won't count Brest as an active port despite PA's best efforts) are in different departments and the same goes for those in the Med (if St Nazaire on the Atlantic reopens then it will be the only one on the ENTIRE coast).

The same is true on the UK side with Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, East Sussex and Kent having now having just one apiece. 

LHCity, what does that tell you?

There is not enough business and money around to support more than one and it's better to concentrate all your resources in a single entity.

If Seine-Maritime are subsidising the Dieppe route it's not for fun. They own the ships that were purpose-built for the route and are benefitting from the traffic that it generates.

To get out of the department (heading south, which is the most popular route whether to Paris or Le Mans etc) from Dieppe you have to drive through most of it (including the capital - Rouen) thereby increasing the probable tourist spend on shops, attractions, restaurants, service-stations and accommodation. It's not about the ferry route making money, it's for the greater good of the department.

Leaving Le Havre you can be in Orne or Calvados within 20 minutes and only have to spend 5€ to get over the bridge, and that's per vehicle, not per person. Le Havre provides very little revenue for the department, especially if operated by private company (BF). 

Therefore if Le Havre survives it's more likely to be due to an Irish service providing something which doesn't already exist in the department and which Dieppe can't easily cater to.

Ed. 

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11 hours ago, Gareth said:

Time will tell.  To properly evaluate the future potential of Le Havre (and Cherbourg), I guess one really has to understand the reasons for their demise.  And on that score, I feel a bit in the dark.  I don’t really understand what those reasons were.

I suppose the answer really lies in two ferry ports that weren't even thought of until less than fifty years ago Portsmouth and Ouistreham and a cheeky little start-up run by a few farmers. I did look at Le Havre on Google Satellite view and I don't think there was a single vessel alongside in any of the basins except for a few small tankers and one underway. Unusually SNCF seem to have lifted a lot of redundant infrastructure but there are still miles of sidings that clearly haven't seen a train in decades. I should think  the presence or absence of a ferry service to anywhere makes little difference to the mathematics of maintaining all this dock space. It looked overall about as busy as Shoreham.

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Looking at the ship movements, it is a large port with container ships, tankers and  vehicle carriers, at night in the Seine there are quite a few ships at anchorage waiting to dock.

However, other ports of similar size do not have roro ferries either as they service different markets.

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The Caen explanation has never been the full story for me.  Le Havre and Ouistreham coexisted for half of the 40 years Le Havre thrived as a car ferry port (from the birth of Thoresen to the withdrawal of P&O) with Le Havre still going strong.  For me, there has to be more to it than that.  (And I’m sure the reasons are complex and not just to do with one factor).

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4 minutes ago, Gareth said:

The Caen explanation has never been the full story for me.  Le Havre and Ouistreham coexisted for half of the 40 years Le Havre thrived as a car ferry port (from the birth of Thoresen to the withdrawal of P&O) with Le Havre still going strong.  For me, there has to be more to it than that.  (And I’m sure the reasons are complex and not just to do with one factor).

Well. I think that it may be just one factor - that factor being the loss of duty free trade. 

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11 hours ago, crechbleiz said:

A lot of assumptions in your posts I'm afraid. One thing though, Le Havre is not the most populated urban area in Seine Maritime, Rouen is the most populated one according to the INSEE (French equivalent of ONS) with almost 490,000 inhabitants . So following this logic we would have a BF service to Rouen....

I speak of city in the true sense of the term. Le Havre 170,000 Rouen 110,000

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15 minutes ago, Gareth said:

The Caen explanation has never been the full story for me.  Le Havre and Ouistreham coexisted for half of the 40 years Le Havre thrived as a car ferry port (from the birth of Thoresen to the withdrawal of P&O) with Le Havre still going strong.  For me, there has to be more to it than that.  (And I’m sure the reasons are complex and not just to do with one factor).

All you need is a company to relaunch 3 frequencies per day in Le Havre and you will see that things will quickly rebalance. Look at Dieppe, a few years ago there was talk of closing the route. Today, thanks to the subsidies, there are up to 3 departures per day and it did not work too badly despite the disadvantages of road access.

I think you're right, it can only be done through another company. Despite all the choice of place, the NORMANDIE in Le Havre was a strong act of BF. It was not an obligation for them.

at worst, if BF were to leave, I think there would be a distribution of the department's ships between Dieppe and Le Havre from Newhaven.

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50 minutes ago, Millsy said:

I did look at Le Havre on Google Satellite view and I don't think there was a single vessel alongside in any of the basins except for a few small tankers and one underway

Le Havre can now cater for the largest of container vessels, the Evelyn Maersk is due having recently left London Gateway. It is quite common for this size of vessel to visit Le Havre.

With the alliances that these large container companies have set up, I would assume this caters for most of the freight that is likely to travel through Le Havre, therefore I cannot see how any competition from the ferry industry having much on an impact on trade. Hence why you won't see someone like DFDS entering the fray.

For me (with little knowledge of the route), what happens at Newhaven will be the main factor in the future of a passenger service to Le Havre. I say that because I think the Newhaven - Dieppe service is always on a knife edge and could go at the drop of a hat. So Portsmouth - Le Havre could pick up the (small) pieces.

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2 minutes ago, rogerpatenall said:

Well. I think that it may be just one factor - that factor being the loss of duty free trade. 

Too simplistic.  I am sure that there may have been factors such as cheap flying, expanded services to Spain, price of oil, harbour fees, choice of ships, which all could have contributed.  And others I’ve not thought of.  All factors that impinge on other routes too, but the specific way in which they interplayed at Le Havre will have been complex.  It might even be a case that P&O gave up for whatever their own reasons were, and nobody else bothered to come in and give it a serious go.  It may always have been a viable proposition given the right operator and choice of ship, but that they just never emerged.

Whatever it was, I do not believe it was as simplisitic as any one thing (or even two).

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2 hours ago, Cabin-boy said:

I think that Seine-Maritime is the only French department which still has two active international ferry ports in operation (now that Boulogne has ceased operating). All the other ports along the Channel (we won't count Brest as an active port despite PA's best efforts) are in different departments and the same goes for those in the Med (if St Nazaire on the Atlantic reopens then it will be the only one on the ENTIRE coast).

 

The departments don't mean anything. Seine Maritime is one of the largest departments in France in length.

Le Havre <> Dieppe = 114 km (1h30).

Le Havre <> Ouistreham = 105 km (1h20).

Ouistreham <> Cherbourg = 136 km (1h40).

By comparison,

Newhaven <> Portsmouth = 95 km (1h20).

Portsmouth <> Poole = 90 km (1h14).

Newhaven <> Dover = 83 km (2h00)

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9 minutes ago, Danim24 said:

Le Havre can now cater for the largest of container vessels, the Evelyn Maersk is due having recently left London Gateway. It is quite common for this size of vessel to visit Le Havre.

With the alliances that these large container companies have set up, I would assume this caters for most of the freight that is likely to travel through Le Havre, therefore I cannot see how any competition from the ferry industry having much on an impact on trade. Hence why you won't see someone like DFDS entering the fray.

For me (with little knowledge of the route), what happens at Newhaven will be the main factor in the future of a passenger service to Le Havre. I say that because I think the Newhaven - Dieppe service is always on a knife edge and could go at the drop of a hat. So Portsmouth - Le Havre could pick up the (small) pieces.

That's what I think too. This is also what Jean Marc Roué said in the press.

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9 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Too simplistic.  I am sure that there may have been factors such as cheap flying, expanded services to Spain, price of oil, harbour fees, choice of ships, which all could have contributed.  And others I’ve not thought of.  All factors that impinge on other routes too, but the specific way in which they interplayed at Le Havre will have been complex.  It might even be a case that P&O gave up for whatever their own reasons were, and nobody else bothered to come in and give it a serious go.  It may always have been a viable proposition given the right operator and choice of ship, but that they just never emerged.

Whatever it was, I do not believe it was as simplisitic as any one thing (or even two).

P&O has given up because the ferries do not include a sufficient margin which is interesting for stock market shareholders. With Brittany Ferries it's different because there is no stock market interest.

 

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Le Havre is clearly an important freight route, however it is not an important passenger route (but is that due to economie !)  - the freight loading per sailing seems to be similar to the Ouisreham figures.

BF restarted using the port in July which is significant and restricted it to mid week which is also significant.

It is also significant that they stopped weekend sailings in Sept / Oct to continue the Cherbourg route at weekends.

I note that at present Connemara is due a visit a week as part of the Spanish rotations come September - however maybe that will all be cancelled and the crew switched to the Etretat !

I would expect that BF have a plan, however that may depend on how the midweek freight figures look.

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4 minutes ago, David Williams said:

Le Havre is clearly an important freight route, however it is not an important passenger route (but is that due to economie !)  - the freight loading per sailing seems to be similar to the Ouisreham figures.

BF restarted using the port in July which is significant and restricted it to mid week which is also significant.

It is also significant that they stopped weekend sailings in Sept / Oct to continue the Cherbourg route at weekends.

I note that at present Connemara is due a visit a week as part of the Spanish rotations come September - however maybe that will all be cancelled and the crew switched to the Etretat !

I would expect that BF have a plan, however that may depend on how the midweek freight figures look.

I think today it is not an important passenger line because the frequencies are low and the vessels unsuitable for passengers. It is a strategic choice inherited from DFDS.

NORMANDIE would have radically changed the situation. I hope BF has a plan B to replace Honfleur!

Edited by LHCity
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Re Dieppe, that only really makes sense for most journeys if it is significantly cheaper (which is). The BF advantage is that it controls the western channel, however the further east you go the less driving advantage you have over the tunnel or Dover ferries.

 

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13 minutes ago, LHCity said:

I think today it is not an important passenger line because the frequencies are low and the vessels unsuitable for passengers.

I don't actually agree, the overnight crossing from the UK is often the most popular on any route and Le Havre offered that and a bed is a bed (especially if you are allowed to stay in it for an extra hour). The return time was a perfectly normal time. Tourists will fit their plans around timetables, however the area around Le Havre is not as appealing to UK visitors as the other 'Holiday' ports that BF serve - there is something magical about all of the other BF French ports (I don't know what Cherbourg is like !), Le Havre just offers some containers made into an Arch !

PS St Malo is an important passenger line with low Frequencies !

Edited by David Williams
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10 minutes ago, David Williams said:

I note that at present Connemara is due a visit a week as part of the Spanish rotations come September

Yes, it’s interesting that Le Havre is continuing as the Spanish ship crew change port whilst Connemara is on the route, but that it’s switching to Cherbourg when Galicia’s schedule kicks in.  This implies to me that they would have preferred to use Le Havre for Galicia too if they could (but can’t because of berth length).  If Cherbourg was the port of choice then they would have sent Connemara there too.  (Note in both cases the crew change call is midweek, which is when they are still choosing to serve Le Havre).

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