The latest round of funding from the European Union’s Marco Polo scheme, designed to take freight off the roads, is supporting Brittany Ferries’ and LD Lines’ routes from England and France to Northern Spain. Brittany Ferries’ ‘Gulfstream Motorway of the Sea’ serving Bilbao and Santander receives €5.57 million over three years, while LD’s St Nazaire-Gijon route, launched last September, gets €4.17 million.

Ustica Line’s Spain-Italy link between Almeria and Livorno gets €3.57 million, but there was disappointment for Fastnet Line’s re-established Cork-Swansea connection, while other operators turned down included Acciona, Finnlines and Grimaldi.

Twice-weekly Portsmouth-Bilbao sailings were started by Brittany Ferries at the end of March using Cap Finistere, with this vessel and Pont-Aven each making a Portsmouth-Santander trip. Pont-Aven also runs weekly from Plymouth in addition to freight sailings to and from Poole by Cotentin. Cap Finistere is using a new Spanish base 4km closer to the sea at Zierbena and with better motorway access than the berth at Santurzi.

LD Lines changed its St Nazaire-Gijon vessel, with the 400-passenger/130-truck Norman Bridge replaced from 18 April by the 800-passenger/200-unit Baltic Amber, which was moved from the Mediterranean after a brief spell on LD’s Marseille-Tunis route.

The Visentini-built Baltic Amber, completed in 2007, ran for Balearia between Barcelona and Palma, Mallorca as Borja until an early 2010 move to the Baltic. Service there for Ave Line and was followed by a spell with DFDS Lisco between Kiel and Klaipeda as a temporary replacement for the fire-hitLisco Gloria.

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