Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

€360m P&O contract for two new ferries

Like Brittany Ferries in 2007 spending €81m on Amorique which recently started operating on their Plymouth-Roscoff route, it seems that P&O have some spare cash as well, as a P&O press release reveals that they've just signed a €360 million contract for two new ferries.

Due to be delivered in December 2010 and September 2011 the two 49,000 gross tonnes ferries will become the largest car-passenger ferries operating on the Dover-Calais route and will replace two of P&O's existing ferries, the Pride of Dover and the Pride of Calais.

Each boat will be 210 metres long, will provide some 2,700 lane metres of vehicle space and accommodate some 195 cars, 180 lorries/coaches and 2,000 passengers.

As well as the usual claims for improved fuel efficiency ("through a hydro-dynamically efficient hull form" ... whatever that means) these two boats are also claimed to be the first passenger ferries in the world to comply with new International Maritime Organisation "Safe Return to Port" requirements which are due to become compulsory for all vessels built after 1st July 2010.

These IMO rules will require that, in the event of a major system failure onboard a ship, that basic services continue to be provided to all persons on board, and that sufficient redundancy is provided to enable certain systems to remain sufficiently operational for the ship to safely return to port.

There's different standards for different ship systems including fire-fighting, power supply, propulsion, steering and navigation. The two new P&O ferries will have a PSMR (Propulsion and Steering Machinery Redundancy) rating so that in the event of failure the ship retains sufficient propulsion power and manoeuvring capability for it to provide a safe return to port.

Formerly known as Aker shipyard (when they built Brittany Ferries' Amorique), and now called STX Europe, construction of the two ferries started on 3rd March 2009 with the ceremonial cutting of the first steel plate at STX Europe's yard in Rauma, Finland and is expected to take some 1,800 man years of work to complete the two vessels!

Further details and a high-resolution image of the new boat and construction press release are on STX Europe's website.

Clearly the ferry companies still see sufficient long-term profits in the cross-channel routes to make this kind of massive financial investment, which is good news as long as we passengers don't see the cost reflected in our ticket prices.

As I wrote this article I mused that Brittany Ferries spent €81m on their boat in 2007 and I notice that P&O have to spend €360m two years later, admittedly for two boats not one, but I can't see that the specification is that vastly different to justify P&O having to spend €100m more than Brittany Ferries, per boat.

I've always thought that Brittany Ferries have the best equipped boats on the cross-channel routes (they have to be as the Western Channel crossing time is that much longer than the Eastern crossing via Dover), so perhaps BF got an absolute bargain, perhaps the cost of steel has gone through the roof, or perhaps P&O are just not such good negotiators??

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