THERE was disappointment and surprise in Cork yesterday as Brittany Ferries confirmed their decision to cancel the Cork- Santander route, in operation since 2018.
The route is due to be replaced by a route from Rosslare to Bilboa.
However, there may be a new route out of Cork to Spain to replace it in the future.
A spokesperson for the Port of Cork told The Echo: “I can confirm we have had a meeting with the Port of Vigo to explore the opportunity of a ferry route from Cork to Vigo.”
The decision to axe the Cork- Santander route came after what Brittany Ferries said was a “period of extensive consultation”.
However, the announcement was met with surprise and disappointment by the Port of Cork, the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) and Cork Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking to The Echo, Pat Dawson CEO of the ITAA said: “The news comes as a surprise to me and I feel it’s a blow for Cork.
“If it’s a case that the economics didn’t stand up, then it’s a decision that I suppose had to be taken, but it’s very disappointing for the region.”
Mr Dawson noted that in light of Brexit uncertainties, it is imperative Cork has strong connectivity to Europe and said he would “urge other companies to consider taking up the route”.
“Northern Spain is an absolutely beautiful region and I have been making the case to airlines over the last four to five years that a Cork to Bilbao flight should be established,” he added.
In a statement issued by Brittany Ferries, they said that “detailed discussions” took place between the Ports of Cork and Rosslare before the decision was made.
“This was not a decision we took lightly and follows extensive consultation with our freight customers who sought better road connections and reduced driving distances,” Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries CEO, said. “We opened the route in 2018 with a two-year trial window.
“While passenger numbers have been encouraging, the reality is that freight numbers, which are key to route viability, were not sufficiently robust.
“However, I want to make it clear that we remain committed to Cork, with our flagship Pont-Aven cruise-ferry service to Roscoff.”
The Port of Cork acknowledged the news was “very disappointing”.
“However, we will continue to pursue other options for linking Cork and Northern Spain,” the spokesperson said. “We remain supportive of Brittany Ferries who have operated out of Cork for over 40 years and we will continue to facilitate Brittany Ferries on their weekly service from Cork to Roscoff re-commencing in March 2020.”
Cork customers already booked on affected sailings on the cancelled route will be given the option to transfer their booking to sailing between Rosslare and Bilbao/Roscoff and an allowance will be given to cover additional transfers.
Alternatively, a full refund will be provided to those who would prefer to cancel.
The Cork-Santander route, which was launched in 2018 was predominantly aimed at the freight market into Europe although it also carried holidaymakers.
Brittany Ferries have said that Rosslare is a preferred option among hauliers, with its proximity to Dublin and the east coast road network.
Hauliers operating on the European mainland have said that Bilbao is more attuned to freight traffic and has easier transport links into Europe.
The first sailing date for the new ferry service is set for February 28.