IT was the sight that bosses at Brittany Ferries have been waiting to see – shortly after 5pm today, the Pont Aven cruise ferry left the port on her way to Santander in Spain.
For the passengers, her voyage marked the end of a 10-day negotiation between the French ferry firm and crew unions which saw ferries tied up in port and unable to move.
There was a sense of relief among the foot passengers as they queued to board inside the new Portsmouth International Port terminal.
Barbara Ford and Mahala Rotherham, both from Poole, had been booked to go on September 21 – the day crew unions called the first 24-hour wildcat strike.
Barbara said: ‘We’ve had to rearrange plans to get on this ferry now, but it has been a big relief to be able to go.
‘Brittany Ferries has been as communicative as it could be, but there has been nothing it could do or say to get us to Spain quicker.’
Other passengers, such as Terry Whitaker, from Lancaster, and Stephen Sutton, who lives in Malaysia, were pleased they could get on their booked ferry.
Terry said: ‘The worst thing was the not knowing, the uncertainty, and trying to put alternative travel plans in place just in case.’
Janina Henly, who travelled to the port today from Swansea, via Horsham to pick up family, was just relieved to get on board.
She said: ‘I’m very happy the ferry is running as planned.’
Those who had booked to go to France during the strike were diverted to Dover, where their tickets were valid on other firm’s ferries, and Portsmouth staff were redeployed to help.
Brittany Ferries spokesman Chris Jones apologised to passengers once again for the cancellations.
He said: ‘We’re very conscious of the disruption we’ve been causing to our passengers and we’re very pleased to get back to what we do best – taking our passengers to France and Spain.
‘We’d like to apologise to everyone who was affected, but we’ve also received very positive comments from people who felt we looked after them well during the suspension.’
While bookings for the firm through October have been affected by the strike, Brittany Ferries says its business is looking strong well into next year.