The Pont-Aven joined the Brittany Ferries fleet in March 2004, and remains the largest ferry to operate out of the UK to both France and Spain. She is also the longest, widest & fastest ferry to ever operate on the route. Onboard you will find facilities and standards previously only found on cruise ships, including a wrap around promenade deck, glass roof covered pool, a two tier show bar, shopping mall plus a number of cabins with their own private balcony. The Pont-Aven certainly impresses all who sail on her and certainly earns the title of being the the company flagship.
On the 22nd February Brittany Ferries signed a letter of intention with the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany for the construction of a new 40,000 ton super ferry for services between UK, Spain, Ireland and France. The Pont-Aven was to set new standards in ferry operation and design showing an investment of over £100 million. Her keel was laid on the 9th April 2003 within the worlds largest covered building dock. On the 13th September the Pont-Aven entered her element for the first time, before outfitting continued prior to her sea trails. Construction was ahead of schedule, and she departed the shipyard on the 7th February whilst transiting the River Ems to Eemshaven before conducting sea trials in the North Sea where she recorded speeds in excess of 28kts.
Following the successful completion of her trails she was handed over to Brittany Ferries on the 27th February prior to sailing to Brest, via Roscoff, for final training and tests before her maiden voyage on the 24th March to Santander. The Pont-Aven offers the fastest sailing times to both Spain and Ireland and has already proved a great success on the route re-enforcing Brittany Ferries position as the number one operator on the Channel.
The Pont-Aven had a difficult inaugural season during 2004, which saw her withdrawn from service during the busy summer season for two weeks. On the 11th August 2004 a seawater gate valve failed during a routine filter change, causing one of the vessel's auxiliary engine rooms to fill rapidly with 1,200 tons of water. Emergency services were called, although the inflow was such that an MoD tug had to be employed to pump out the flooded space. Sailings were cancelled and the vessel sailed to Brest to undergo repairs, eventually returning to service on the 23rd August, albeit initially at reduced speed.
On the 3rd June 2005, Dame Ellen MacArthur undertook the inaugural attempt on the 'Brittany Ferries 100 Mile Trophy' onboard her trimaran, B&Q, in which she established her solo round-the-world record. She took her starting position alongside the Pont-Aven, off the Plymouth breakwater. Pont-Aven won!
At 2350 on the 21st May 2006, the Pont-Aven was struck by an 20m freak wave, which crashed over her bow, smashing windows on its promenade deck and driving seawater into 150 cabins and connecting corridors and passages. Five persons were treated by the ships doctor for minor injuries. The vessel was en-route to Santander, but diverted to Roscoff following the incident. Pont-Aven then sailed for Brest where repairs were carried out, including the covering of the forward promenade deck windows and the replacement of carpet on decks 5 & 6. She resumed passenger service on the 26th May.
It was announced in June 2008 that the Pont-Aven would open a new route between Portsmouth and Santander in 2009, offering a sailing time between the two ports of just 24 hours. The new route opened on the 18th March, and the maiden crossing was completed in just 23 hours 15 mins, setting a new speed record. She operates a triangular route offering one departure from both Plymouth and Portsmouth to Santander, before sailing to Roscoff and Cork at the weekend.
The Pont-Aven is named after the small city in Brittany known as the 'cite des peintres'. In the 19th century, Pont-Aven was a small commercial town known for its mills and its port. It has always inspired artists, and American painters began arriving here in 1865. From 1865 onwards, life in the town changed radically becoming world renowned for its quality of art and fashion. The Pont-Aven reflects the history of the name with her internal decor and paintings complementing the city, whilst a specially designed carpet runs the length of the vessel containing all of the colours of Pont-Aven.