This futuristic looking ferry caused a stir when she appeared in Poole Harbour for the first time in April 1992. She was by far the largest vessel ever to visit the Dorset port, and much dredging was required to accommodate her in what is the world's largest natural harbour (at high tide at least!). The attractively named Barfleur was built in Finland and was designed to consolidate the Poole/Cherbourg service by replacing two smaller passenger vessels, Tregastel and Corbiére.
Barfleur was the first multi-purpose vessel to be built for Brittany Ferries with full-length lorry-height vehicle decks on two levels. She also featured a cargo hold beneath the waterline, therefore making her a particularly capacious ship. During construction she was lengthened by just seven metres. This was officially designed to increase her capacity, but it was rumoured that the modification was required in order to redress a deadweight problem that had come to light. Her unique livery of white, grey and yellow, featuring the brand name of 'Truckline Ferries' below her funnels was removed in favour of the colours of Brittany Ferries in 1999. Despite the company updating its own corporate identity two years later (with italic sans-serif lettering), it was not until 2009 that Barfleur finally caught up, although the hand-painted efforts of the ship repairers did not produce a partcularly accurate reproduction of the logo!
In December of 2009 Brittany Ferries announced that the Poole/Cherbourg route had been losing them money for six years and therefore Barfleur was to be withdrawn from service and offered for sale or charter. It was odd that it seemingly had taken them so long to notice the ship was no longer profitable. Barfleur dipped her toe into February 2010 before completing her last commercial sailing. She was then taken off to lay-up at Ouistreham and await her fate. A sad end to her eighteen year association with the ports of Poole and Cherbourg for which she was built to serve.
Having failed to find an interested buyer, and after some pressure from the local authorities in Poole and Cherbourg, Brittany Ferries decided to bring Barfleur back to service from the end of February 2011. However, there were caveats: In order to improve her chances of profitability she would have a reduced crew and consequently a lower passenger certificate. She was also to operate on a seasonal basis only, with just a daily round trip (except at weekends when she would sail twice a day). Her performance would be reviewed at the end of the season and her future use decided on that basis. Sadly carryings failed to meet expectations and Barfleur made her last crossing for the Company in early October of that year.
After another winter spent laid up at Caen, it was announced in March 2012 that D. F. D. S. Seaways had chartered Barfleur to improve frequency of sailings on its new joint operation with L. D. Lines on the Dover/Calais route. Renamed Deal Seaways, she was scheduled to take up service at the end of the following month. Whilst happy news as far as the continued operation of the vessel was concerned, it was a bitter blow for the ports of Poole and Cherbourg who had lost any hope of seeing the return of their conventional ferry for the foreseeable future.
Deal Seaways was a very attractive feature on the Dover/Calais route in terms of her pleasant accommodation and plentiful outside deck space. However she struggled to cope with the pressure of short turnaround times. Her raised upper vehicle deck at the bow end caused problems at high tide when the ramps at Calais where unable to reach it.
In an unexpected change of strategy, after rumours that Brittany Ferries wa set to abandon Cherbourg altogether, an announcement was made in the summer of 2012 that Deal Seaways would not be staying with D. F. D. S. and was being recalled for Poole/Cherbourg service as of March 2013. This left D. F. D. S. with the problem of finding a replacement vessel. However, the resurrection of Barfleur was very good news for Poole and Cherbourg. The Company stated that the seasonal fast craft service operated on their behalf by Condor Ferries was being discontinued and that Barfleur would operate daylight crossings only, with no overnight sailings anymore. However, something was better than nothing for those who missed this much-loved ship.
M. S. Barfleur
Builder: Kvaerner Masa-Yards, Helsingfors, Finland.
Yard number: 485.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 157.65 x 23.30 x 5.4 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 20,133, 11,679, 4,130.
Engines: Four Wärtsilä diesel.
Power: 11,990 kW.
Speed (knots): 19.5.
Passenger certificate: 1,212.
Car capacity: 550.
11.1991: Lengthened by 7.2 metres to correct a stability fault.
26.3.1992: Delivered to Truckline Ferries France S. A., Cherbourg.
4.4.1992: Entered service Poole/Cherbourg.
28.11.1997: Opened winter service between Poole/Santander. Discontinurd following year.
1.1999: Transferred to Brittany Ferries.
2005: Operated daylight crossings from Cherbourg to Portsmouth instead of Poole for one season only.
31.1.2010: Performed final sailing on Poole/Cherbourg route before being withdrawn from service.
28.2.2011: Reinstated on Poole/Cherbourg.
3.10.2011: Again withdrawn from service.
27.4.2012: Entered service on Dover/Calais for D. F. D. S. Seaways.
16.11.2012: Finished charter for D. F. D. D. Seaways. Sent to Dunkerque for lay-up.
Barfleur rests in Poole Harbour during her first summer of service for Truckline Ferries.