Ferry com­pany ‘sounds alarm’ over Brexit

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News - BY MARTIN FREE­MAN

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

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