Website URL: http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/information/about-brittany-ferries

About Brittany Ferries

Founded in 1972 by proud Breton Alexis Gourvennec and a group of fellow Breton farmers wanting to export their cauliflowers and artichokes to the UK, Brittany Ferries is now the leading maritime carrier on the western and central Channel.

The company, originally known as Armement Bretagne-Angleterre-Irelande, or B.A.I. for short, was officially born on a bleak New Year's Day in 1973, with French, British and Breton flags flying and a choir singing carols. With Britain's entry into the Common Market in 1973, Gourvennec saw his chance to end the geographical isolation of Brittany.

Realising the quickest route to this new market would be across the western Channel to Plymouth, he contacted several large shipping companies to see if they would be interested in operating the route. These efforts were to no avail so he and his fellow farmers purchased their own freighter and named it 'Kerisnel', after a small Breton village famous for its cauliflowers. The Breton farming groups who founded the company remain its main shareholders to this day.

The 1970s

The 1970s were not without their problems, with two vessels running aground in St Malo's harbour, three vessels being plagued with engine problems, and trade union strikes and fishermen's disputes causing the closure of Roscoff's port on the Cornouaille's maiden voyage, forcing her to return to Plymouth where she was used as a hotel for three days.

However, the 1970s also saw Brittany Ferries offering its first ferry-inclusive holidays and creating a thriving business by bringing fresh produce north and taking tourists south. Our Plymouth-Santander route inaugurated in 1978 was launched as the fastest sea route to Northern Spain, 14 hours quicker than our competitors.

The 1980s

Brittany Ferries grew in the 1980s with the acquisition of two shipping companies. We joined forces with Jersey-based Huelin-Renouf and MMD Shipping to create British Channel Island Ferries (BCIF) and we also bought the cargo service, Truckline, with its two vessels.

Our first ship to be awarded the AA 5-star award set sail in 1989, the purpose-built Bretagne, and Normandie also gained this award shortly after in 1992. The presence of Bretagne signified our commitment to providing high quality ferry travel and also allowed for the expansion of our Spanish service.

In 1986 we opened our Portsmouth-Caen route to overnight success and by the end of the decade our total passenger figures surpassed 1 million for the first time.

The 1990s

By the end of the 1990s, a decade which saw three new ships enter our fleet - the purpose-built ships Barfleur and Normandie, together with Val de Loire, the largest ship ever to set sail from Ireland on the new Cork - Roscoff route. By 1999, Brittany Ferries had grown to operate six routes with a fleet of seven ships carrying 2.65 million passengers and 173,000 freight units a year.

Despite the end of duty-free shopping and the so-called booze cruise, together with the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, our carryings continued to increase with a rise of 15 per cent in 1996 alone.

We also had several special sailings in this time including one for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day Landings on which Normandie carried the largest contingent of military vehicles since the invasion itself on 6th June 1944. Brittany Ferries was the official sea carrier for the 1994 Tour de France and a special sailing took the competitors from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. We also launched our popular annual Christmas and New Year mini-cruises.

The 2000s

Four purpose-built ships joined our fleet during this decade: Mont St Michel for the Portsmouth-Caen route, our flagship Pont-Aven for services to Spain and Ireland, the freighter Cotentin for the Poole-Cherbourg and Poole-Santander routes, and Armorique for the Plymouth-Roscoff route. In 2004 we chartered the fast-craft Normandie Express which was later purchased.

2007 saw the sad demise of our founder, Alexis Gourvennec, but the spirit of his venture lives on with fellow Breton farmer Jean-Marc Roué taking on the mantle as president of the company. We still operate under the French flag and form an integral part of the tourism infrastructure of Western France.

2010

Cap Finistère is acquired from Greek Operator Superfast Ferries, for services to Spain.

2011

Brittany Ferries' Spanish services are expanded with the addition of a route from Portsmouth to Bilbao.

2013

Brittany Ferries marks its 40th anniversary whilst sailing to France and Spain from the United Kingdom with eight different vessels (including the returning Barfleur to operate once again between Poole and Cherbourg).

We were named 'Best Small Tour Operator to Western Europe' and 'Best Small Camping and Mobile Tour Operator' in the British Travel Awards and 'Best Ferry Operator' in the prestigious Telegraph Travel Awards 2013. In May, Normandie Express inaugurated a new route from Portsmouth to the Norman port of Le Havre - the furthest east the company has ever operated.

2014

A new 'no-frills' service is launched on the Portsmouth-Le Havre and Portsmouth-Santander routes, using a newly acquired freight and passenger vessel, Etretat.

In June, Brittany Ferries had the honour of transporting around 500 D-Day veterans as they returned to Normandy to take part in the commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The company begins an ambitious programme of fleet regeneration and renewal, including the order of a new LNG-powered cruise-ferry, codenamed PEGASIS (Power Efficient Gas Innovative Ship). The programme also includes the fitting of sulphur scrubbers to three ships (Normandie, Barfleur and Cap Finistère), and the conversion of Pont-Aven, Armorique and Mont St Michel to run on LNG. When the programme reaches completion in 2016, Brittany Ferries' fleet will be one of the greenest in the world.

Brittany Ferries Timeline

1 Jan 1973 Brittany Ferries is created by Alexis Gourvennec.
2 Jan 1973 Kerisnel inaugurates the Roscoff-Plymouth route.
1974 Buy our first newbuild ship, the Penn-Ar-Bed (Land's End in Breton).
1976 St Malo-Portsmouth route sets sail.
1978 Plymouth-Santander route sets sail. We also begin selling ferry-inclusive holidays in our new glossy colour brochures.
1982 The Brittany Centre built in Portsmouth.
1983 We celebrate our 10th anniversary with six ships on four routes (Portsmouth-St Malo route added).
1984 Brittany Ferries joins with Jersey-based Huelin-Renouf and MMD Shipping to create British Channel Island Ferries (BCIF) with a 27% shareholding.
1985 Brittany Ferries buys Truckline Ferries and its two ships to sail the Poole-Cherbourg route.
1986 Portsmouth-Caen route opens to overnight success.
1989 Buy our first purpose-built ship, the Bretagne, which provides new levels of luxury in ferry travel.
1992 Buy two more purpose-built ships to add to our fleet, the Barfleur and the Normandie. The Normandie and the Bretagne are awarded the AA 5-star award.
1993 Val de Loire is largest ship ever to sail from Ireland on the new Cork-Roscoff route.
1994 The Channel Tunnel opens. Our carryings rose by 15%. Bought out of BCIF by Commodore and Condor Ferries. On the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the Normandie carries the largest contingent of military vehicles since the invasion itself on 6th June 1944. We also sailed a special Portsmouth-Cherbourg sailing carrying Tour de France competitors as the official sea carrier of the race.
1998 Truckline brand is absorbed into the Brittany Ferries brand.
2002 Buy the purpose-built ship, the Mont St Michel.
2004 Buy the purpose-built flagship, the Pont-Aven.
2005 Our second fast ferry service is launched with the Normandie Express. On her long voyage from Tasmania to France she brought supplies to those in Indonesia who were stricken by the Boxing Day Tsunami. She also brought home the yacht Fil-et-Voila which was damaged during the Vendee Globe Solo Round-the-World race.
2006 Brittany Ferries Holidays voted 'Best Tour Operator to France 2006' by Maison de la France (the French Tourist Office).
2007 Buy the Normandie Express and the purpose-built ship, the Cotentin. Our founder Alexis Gourvennec dies. Jean Marc Roué becomes president.
2008 Brittany Ferries celebrates 30th anniversary of services to Spain.
2009 The £100 million purpose-built ship Armorique joins the Brittany Ferries' fleet.
2010 New Portsmouth-Bilbao route announced - the first new destination for 24 years. Buy the Cap Finistère.
2011 Which? readers voted Brittany Ferries the best ferry company in the magazine's customer satisfaction survey as well as being named 'Best Tour Operator to France' in the 2011 British Travel Awards.
2012 Named 'Best Tour Operator to Western Europe' and 'Best Small Camping and Mobile Tour Operator' in the British Travel Awards 2012.
2013 Brittany Ferries marks its 40th anniversary whilst sailing to France and Spain from the United Kingdom with eight different vessels (including the returning Barfleur to operate once again between Poole and Cherbourg).
2014 'No-frills' service launched on the Portsmouth-Le Havre and Portsmouth-Santander routes using a newly acquired freight and passenger vessel, Etretat. In June, Brittany Ferries transported around 500 D-Day veterans to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. New LNG-powered cruise-ferry, codenamed PEGASIS (Power Efficient Gas Innovative Ship) ordered.