Brittany Ferries Salamanca

CMA CGM is set to take a “quasi equity” stake in French cross-channel ferry operator Brittany Ferries.

The two carriers have signed a letter of intent to “unlock synergies between the two companies in passenger and freight transport”.

CMA CGM will plough €25m ($29.5m) into Brittany Ferries, which has experienced a torrid pandemic as passenger volumes dropped dramatically in the aftermath of lockdowns and veered perilously closer to financial ruin.

Revenues in 2020 more than halved, to €202.4m, compared with 2019’s €469m, as passenger numbers declined to 750,000 from the 2.5m it carried in 2019.

The investment includes €10m in “quasi equity”, and will see a CMA CGM executive take a seat on the board of the ferry operator, while the agreement also includes making cross-Channel freight capacity on Brittany Ferries vessels available to the container line.

The companies added: “The transportation of goods aboard Brittany Ferries’ roll-on roll-off ships will help expand the CMA CGM group’s offering in the ro-ro sector for the Atlantic and northern coast of France to destinations in the UK.”

At the same time, CMA CGM is expected to help Brittany strategically reorient its operations towards unaccompanied trailer traffic, which has seen high growth rates on cross-Channel services since the pandemic and the UK’s departure from the single market.

“The partnership with CMA CGM will also pave the way for Brittany Ferries to gain more expertise in freight and logistics. It will help the company to adapt more easily to the post-Covid-19 trends in goods transportation, including the transport of unaccompanied trailers, and to offer new transport services so it can better meet the needs of its customers,” the statement said.

Brittany Ferries has also drawn up plans to launch an unaccompanied trailer service on France’s Atlantic coast rail network between Bayonne and Cherbourg by the end of 2022.

The two carriers also share an appetite for LNG as an alternative vessel fuel. CMA CGM has led the way in the container sector, while Brittany Ferries is set to introduce two new LNG-powered ferries to its Spain-UK network, in the form of the Salamanca and Santoña, which are set to be deployed next year and 2023 respectively.

The companies added that they expected to jointly develop new routes.

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