Brittany Ferries plans Spanish service as alternative to Calais

Brittany Ferries is launching a freight route from Poole to Bilbao in northern Spain next month in response to demand from hauliers looking to avoid the troubled Dover-Calais route.

The announcement came as the RHA repeated its call for military intervention to protect beleaguered HGV drivers at the French port from migrants.

Brittany Ferries’ chartered ro-ro ship has the capacity for 100 unaccompanied trailers and 12 drivers and will begin service early next month.

Dubbed the Pelican, the ship will operate two round-trips a week. The charter, which includes crew, is for 12 months, with the option of an extension.

Last year Brittany Ferries reported a 20% rise in freight traffic across all routes. A spokesman told that the company was witnessing an increase in freight this year at all its terminals.

He added: “There are two reasons for this demand. One is the underlying strength of the economy and the other is that more operators are looking to move west because of problems
at Calais.

“More operators are looking for a reliable service because of their concerns at the lack of security at Calais. So we are seeing an increasing demand from operators to carry freight via secure routes. That has resulted in significant growth for us in freight, particularly at Portsmouth and Le Havre last year.

"This year started strongly, so we are offering this route to help meet demand.”

It came as the port was closed last weekend after 50 migrants boarded a P&O vessel, prompting the RHA to reiterate its call for military deployment.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “I am now publicly calling on the government to join my call for this decisive action. The time for debate has passed and we need immediate action. It is now surely only a matter of time before our worst fears become a reality and a UK-bound truck driver is killed.”