Maritime & Marine

Pelican proves popular as vessel linking Poole and Spain named best-performing freight ship

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: January 31, 2021 | Updated: 18th September 2023

A freight-only ship linking Poole and Bilbao in Spain has become the best-performing freight vessel in the Brittany Ferries fleet.

Pelican, which began service with the company in February 2016, operates two round-trips per week on the route.

She has the capacity for around 100 unaccompanied trailers and eight drivers.

Brittany Ferries has reported a growing number of haulage companies shipping goods using unaccompanied trailers.

It says demand is rising, and the ports it serves on the western Channel in France and the UK – including Poole – are best set-up to receive driverless loads.

Simon Wagstaff, Freight Director, pictured left, said: “Things like negative Covid tests for drivers are certainly helping drive the trend for unaccompanied loads.

“However, there are other financial benefits in going driverless.

“We know of one large haulage operation in Ireland, for example, that has organised reciprocal arrangements with another in Spain, dropping off and picking up trailers for each other.

“That’s a cost-effective way of doing business.”

All ferry companies have reported reduced freight volumes in January as a consequence of Brexit fears and stockpiling by companies.

However, while volumes are low, Brittany Ferries says the proportion of unaccompanied units is already much higher than in previous years.

Described as the workhorse of the fleet, Pelican’s fill rates have risen significantly, making her the fleet’s best performing freight ship.

Simon said: “Of course, Pelican is an extremely versatile vessel which can take out-of-gauge shipments (abnormal loads) as well as unaccompanied units.

“It’s this flexibility in our fleet, combined with our ability to accommodate unaccompanied loads throughout our extensive route network, that makes Brittany Ferries an attractive prospect for the year ahead.

“We are pleased too that freight is flowing well through our ports, without the queues that some forecast at the start of the year.”

Steve Moors, pictured left, Port Manager, Poole Harbour Commissioners, said: “Working closely with Brittany Ferries over the years and looking after their customers has made this [Poole to Bilbao] a very popular route.

“We have a good relationship with LKW who is by far their biggest customer on the route.

“They know and trust us that if they have any issues with any of their loads or trailers it will be dealt with swiftly to help keep the goods moving as a lot of their loads are time critical.

“Mafi trailers carrying 50 tons of ceramics and slates are again transferred to road trailers and delivered in a very fast and professional manner.

“Abnormal loads are also shipped regularly on the Pelican as we are fortunate enough to have the space to be able to hold the trucks on the port estate until the police/escort vehicles are allowed to move them.

“Brittany Ferries’ management team in Poole know if they need assistance in turning the ship around quicker than its normal allotted time, or if they have an issue, PHC will be there to back them up and do their utmost best to help overcome any problems.

“Our ‘can do’ attitude, and the close working relationship with the Brittany team here in Poole, is very much appreciated by all their customers.”

Brittany Ferries began as a freight-only operation in 1973 before later turning to passenger traffic as well.

In a normal non-Covid year Brittany Ferries carries around 210,000 freight units.

Its twelve ships serve Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Saint-Malo and Roscoff in France, Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth in the UK, Santander and Bilbao in Spain and Cork & Rosslare in Ireland.

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