Brittany Ferries has announced a new route into northern Spain.
Starting at the end of April, the service will link Cork and Santander, making two return-sailings a week.
The move will be the first time there has ever been a ferry service linking Ireland and Spain.
Today’s announcement comes as Brittany Ferries celebrates its 40th year in Ireland.
The popular Cork to Roscoff route opened on St Patricks Day in 1978 and has been serving Irish holiday makers and haulage companies ever since.
It has also brought millions of French passengers to Ireland, boosting the local and national economy.
A new ship will be chartered to serve the route to Spain, and to deliver an additional weekly return-sailing from Cork to Roscoff.
To be called Connemara, she will follow the successful économie model that the company has established on services from the UK to France & Spain.
As well as opening a new route Connemara will add much needed capacity to the company’s existing line to France, creating more opportunities for short breaks.
“This is a significant move for Brittany Ferries, offering haulage companies a direct route to Spain and passengers a far greater range of holiday options from Cork,” said Hugh Bruton, general manager Brittany Ferries Ireland.
“As a destination so-called green Spain promises visitors a wealth of opportunities.
“It hosts sweeping sandy beaches, snow covered mountains just an hour from the port, fabulous food and offers visitors a welcome as warm as the Spanish will receive when they join us in Ireland.”
The ship is currently operating on routes between Italy and Greece and will be chartered from Stena RoRo for an initial period of two years.
She will carry around 500 passengers with space for 195 cars.
She hosts 2,225 lane metres of garage space and Brittany Ferries expects a fifty-fifty split between passengers and freight carried.
The Port of Cork welcomed the announcement which will facilitate and enhance significant freight and tourist activity already established in Cork.
Port of Cork commercial manager, Michael McCarthy said: “The Port of Cork wholeheartedly welcomes a service we have been trying as a port to establish for some time now.
“We are delighted that our long-term customer, Brittany Ferries, has committed to this new service which will see an increase in tourism and freight.
“The option for freight carriers to bypass the UK land bridge will be seen as very attractive, as Brexit uncertainty continues. We have no doubt that both exporters and importers will make this a viable service.”
The new service from Brittany Ferries is expected to be on sale by the end of January.