RUGBY fans have ensured the first sailing from Cork to Santander next week is a complete sell-out but agriculture and commercial traffic will be key to its long-term success, according to Port of Cork Chairman John Mullins.
The route between Ringaskiddy and the north coast of Spain was greeted with enthusiasm at both ports when it was announced earlier this year. The crossing will operate twice-weekly, sailing from Cork on Wednesdays and Fridays and from Santander on Thursdays and Sundays.
The Connemara leaves Santander for the first sailing on Sunday and will arrive in Cork on Monday afternoon. When it leaves for the return leg there will be an unusual number of blue jerseys on board.
“It is booked out with Leinster supporters for the next two weeks!” Mr Mullins said. “You will have peak tourist season but long-term this has to rely on commercial traffic.” Mr Mullins said the new route is an opportunity to forge new ties between the two areas.
“There is incredible enthusiasm in Santander for this route, they are delighted with the new connection,” he said. “The local Comunidad, the equivalent of our local council, are very keen on building up a relationship with the city and county councils here, in terms of trading links.
“We were joined by a representative from Cork County Council when we were in Santander two weeks ago.”
They went over for the official Spanish launch and a contingent from Santander will return the visit in mid-June, when the official Cork launch of the route will be combined with a celebration of 40 years of Brittany Ferries in the Port of Cork.
Mr Mullins expects local producers to take full advantage of the opportunity to make connections.
“Particularly the dairy and agriculture of north and west Cork will benefit from new economic links,” he said. “It is a big trading link because a lot of Irish produce goes to Spain. I think you will find a lot of agricultural product will go on the journey.”
Mr Mullins sees the potential for further growth in the route if bookings can match and exceed initial expectations.