BRITTANY Ferries has reported some of the most disappointing figures in its history, following its AGM in St Pol de Leon, France, yesterday.
In a year dominated by the Covid-19 crisis and amid ongoing Brexit concerns, 2020 passenger numbers fell to less than a third of normal levels and company turnover halved, as lockdown measures and restrictions on travel in all markets forced passengers to stay at home.
Last year, Brittany Ferries carried 752,102 passengers, less than a third of the total it would carry in a normal year. By comparison, in 2019 it carried 2,498,354 passengers across all routes.
A total of 19,822 passengers were carried on the Ireland/France/Spain route last year down from 120,193 the previous year.
In 2019, the uncertainty of three potential Brexit deadlines created concern among British passengers who account for around 85% of passengers which hit travel demand.
Total passenger traffic fell by 5% in 2019 to 2,498,354 and 2020 saw a 70% crash in volumes.
In 2020 the company turned €202.4m, compared with €469m in 2019, a 57% decline.
Freight fared slightly better, with figures down by 20%, which saw Brittany Ferries largely return to its roots as a freight-only operation towards the end of last year.
In total it carried 160,377 units in 2020, down around 20% on the previous year’s tally of 201,554. Despite the difficult year, the company is plotting a course towards a brighter future, embarking on a five-year recovery plan to bridge the immediate crisis and prepare for a return to normal service.
Brittany Ferries president Jean Marc Roué said Brexit and the Covid crisis “brought our company to its knees”.
“On Brexit, the unfavourable sterling-euro exchange rate hit our bottom line. The value of sterling plummeted directly after the 2016 vote and, since then, the company lost €115m in potential income as the majority of revenue is generated in sterling and costs come in euros.
“Brexit concerns also affected demand. Three potential dates for the UK’s departure from the EU in 2019 created uncertainty and anxiety in the marketplace and passenger numbers fell by 5%. Despite these challenges, we remained profitable,” he said.
He said, however, that the pandemic “struck a blow” for the regions it serves and the French seafarers the company is “proud to employ”.
“Despite this, we are determined to remain part of the fabric of life in the north west of France as well as in the UK, Ireland, and Spain and we must thank the regions of Normandy and Brittany, the banks and French state for their on-going support throughout this dark period. With a collective will to return stronger, I believe Brittany Ferries will overcome the greatest challenge in its history.”
The company’s internal recovery plan includes four pillars: Energy transition; greener vessels; support from farming cooperatives and its shareholders; and profitability.
Commenting on the year ahead and the conclusions of the LEK study, Brittany Ferries chief executive Christophe Mathieu said: “There is no doubt 2021 will be another tough year for our company. However, we will continue on the path to recovery, taking tough decisions if necessary but encouraged by the findings of this independent report which show the market is ready to bounce back.
“We will always place the long-term interest of Brittany Ferries at heart and as long as we continue to be supported by our staff, shareholders, the banks, as well as by regional and national governments, I believe we can navigate a path through the storm.”