Plymouth based Brittany Ferries celebrates 40 years in business
BRITTANY FERRIES has become a stalwart of the community in Plymouth over the past four decades.
The booming business – celebrating its 40th anniversary this year – has survived the recession, changes in holiday trends and stiff competition from budget airlines.
It's come a long way since a small group of Breton vegetable farmers started it all those years ago.
The workers came up with the idea in a bid to get their fresh produce to the UK quicker than the Calais to Dover route.
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Their venture shocked the shipping world: nobody expected them to succeed.
The pioneering farmers – led by the charismatic Alexis Gourvennec – needed to build deep-water ports in both France and the UK.
The idea would never get off the ground – or shore bed – surely?
But against the odds, on New Year's Day 1973 a freight ship called Kerisnel left Roscoff bound for Plymouth with lorries loaded with artichokes and cauliflowers.
The first year the company carried about 600 trucks.
Today it carries almost 200,000 trucks, 800,000 cars and almost 2.5 million passengers every year.
Although it has grown over the years, Brittany Ferries hasn't moved to a major hub or capital city.
The company is still head-quartered in Roscoff (Brittany) and Plymouth with offices scattered around the ports it serves.
The ownership hasn't changed too much either.
Many of the same shareholders have remained loyal to the company over the last 40 years.
Brittany Ferries is now an integral part of the tourism infrastructure of Western France and Northern Spain, taking people on holiday in comfort and luxury.
Jean-Marc Roué, chairman and Breton farmer, said: "We have built a strong image and earned a well-deserved reputation for providing a high quality service which is why we enjoy levels of repeat business far above the industry norm.
"We have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and take decisions based, not on short term expediency, but on what is good for customers, employees and the community in the long term.
"This is why we invest so much in our ships, each of which has its own special character."
Brittany Ferries covers 10 routes over four countries (France, Spain, England and Ireland) with up to 40 sailings per day in high season.
Across the fleet there are around 200 chefs and over 2,000 works of art.
The company's flagship, the Pont-Aven, has facilities to rival many cruise ships including a pool, a spa, three restaurants, a piano bar, en-suite cabins, two cinemas and a marine mammal observatory.
Brittany Ferries is also one of the largest tour operators to France, providing a huge range of ferry-inclusive holidays – with gites, country cottages, chalet camping, apartments and hand-picked hotels throughout Western France and beyond.
As part of Brittany Ferries anniversary celebrations, the company is supporting St Luke's Hospice by running a charity mini-cruise. The exclusive trip leaves Plymouth on March 21 to Roscoff and includes a variety of entertainment, food, fundraising activities and time to discover Roscoff before the return journey the following day.