Letter from Europe

A trio of cat stories

Issue no. 2009/39


Catamarans are in the news. Spanish operator Transcoma this week launches its new fast catamaran service between Gibraltar and the Spanish port of Algeciras and in the English Channel the Euroferries saga continues.

Dear fellow travellers

Gibraltar cats

Catamarans are in the news. Spanish operator Transcoma this week launches its new fast catamaran service between Gibraltar and the Spanish port of Algeciras, so reviving a former shipping link across Algeciras Bay that was severed long ago. Transcoma hope to attract some of the many commuters who live in Spain but work in Gibraltar.

As Algeciras also has frequent direct ferries to Morocco and the Spanish exclave of Ceuta, the new link from Gibraltar to Algeciras provides many new opportunities for travel from Gibraltar to North Africa. At present the British outpost has only a once weekly link with North Africa, that being a Friday evening service to Tangier. The return run is on Sunday evenings. That service is run by FRS for migrant workers. FRS decline to say whether they will continue the route after Christmas. Doubtless they are watching the early days of the new Transcoma operation very closely.

Channel cats

In the English Channel the Euroferries saga continues. Back in 2006 start-up ferry company Euroferries was promising catamaran services from Dover to France. That never happened and the vessel that Euroferries had their eyes on eventually ended up in the FRS fleet shuttling across the Strait of Gibraltar.

In early January 2009, Euroferries was back in the news, this time advertising a catamaran service from Ramsgate to Boulogne from March 2009. After several times deferring the start date, Euroferries said it was all systems go for 14 November. But that date came and went without a single crossing. Now Euroferries is saying they really will launch services on 1 March 2010, evidently using a catamaran called Euroferries Express (which we think is an Australian-built cat presently laid up in the Canary Islands). Meanwhile staff at Euroferries' UK office are spending the winter months trying to intimidate bloggers and journalists who suggest that Euroferries' business is anything but perfectly financed and magnificently run.

Dead cats

Our last catamaran tale is the strangest of all. A few weeks ago the Guardian revealed the winner of its 2009 Best Ferry Operator award, announcing that "Norfolk Lines pipped Speed Ferries to the top spot." So Speed Ferries managed to achieve a very creditable second place in a very competitive category with dozens of operators anxious for recognition. Speed Ferries' achievement is all the more remarkable as they went bankrupt in 2008. But in their heyday they ran a very useful catamaran service from Dover to Boulogne. Euroferries should take heart. We hope they do get started in March 2010, but even if they don't, they should be well in line for an award from the Guardian as Europe's best ferry operator.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(hidden europe)

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