Ferry company ‘sounds alarm’ over Brexit
Brittany Ferries has “sounded the alarm” over the impact of Brexit.
The French-owned has expressed concern due to lower advance booking by passengers and worries about the possible impact on its freight services to and from the UK.
The company says bookings for next summer show a “worrying downward trend”.
The dip – understood to be about 2% – follows a rise by a similar amount this summer compared to 2017.
“Family bookings for next summer already show a worrying downward trend, so today we sound the alarm,” said the company’s chief executive, Christophe Mathieu.
Eighty-five per cent of the 2.5 million passengers that Brittany Ferries carries are British holidaymakers visit- ing regions in France and northern Spain.
The company said there was “certainly some fear with passengers” of what next year would be like for travel.
Specific areas of concern for travellers included pet passports “which may or may not exist next year”.
There were also broader questions such as whether the value of the pound would drop further, making holidays abroad more expensive for Britons, the company said.
Brittany Ferries operates from Plymouth, Poole and Portsmouth and serves Le Havre, Caen, Cherbourg, St Malo and Roscoff in France and Santander and Bilbao in northern Spain.
The company said it had been warned that every vehicle carrying refrigerated goods, food and other natural products may face inspections upon arrival in France after Britain leaves the EU.
Around one third of the 210,000 freight units carried by the company every year would be affected.
“The British may take a pragmatic approach and wave lorries through upon arrival into the UK,” said Mr Mathieu.
“But cross-Channel trade works both ways.
“In a worst case scenario, British hauliers carrying refrigerated goods could face the prospect of far longer journeys – perhaps hundreds of additional miles – to find a French port equipped to process their consignment.
“When they finally get there they could encounter further delays waiting for checks to take place.
“The reality of this would be a loss of connectivity and a significant threat to jobs and long term investment in regions like the south west of England.”
Brittany Ferries said it could increase freight capacity at ports west of Calais, post-Brexit. The cross-channel ferry operator has confirmed it has looked at increasing the frequency of services into ports such as Cherbourg and Le Havre in Normandy. However, it has said that contingency planning is almost impossible, even as the Department of Transport has written seeking clarity on spare capacity options.
That is because hauliers could face fewer opportunities to cross on the western channel post-Brexit, the company says.
The huge warehouses needed do not exist in ports such as Roscoff, St Malo or Cherbourg.
Nor are they likely to be constructed by March 2019, when Britain leaves the EU. “Some ports may also be excluded from preparations completely, meaning fewer entry points for hauliers into France and rendering pointless plans to boost capacity,” the company said.
Brittany Ferries is investing 450m euros – about £395 million – in three new ships.
The Brittany Ferry Pont-Aven. Brexit uncertainty is affecting the company