BRITTANY Ferries is to withdraw its freight ship Cotentin from the end of September in a double blow to the port of Poole.

This comes hard on the heels of the decision by the ferry company to halt sailings of the passenger ferry Barfleur early next year.

The loss of the freight ferry has been described as “disappointing” by Poole Harbour Commissioners, whose income will suffer.

The freight ferry, which can carry 120 trucks, had its route expanded earlier this year when a freight-only service was started between Poole and Bilbao in northern Spain in March, supplementing the weekend service to Santander and the Cherbourg route.

Now the ship, which was launched in 2007, is to be withdrawn and it is not known when or if she will return to Poole.

Chris Jones, Brittany Ferries spokesman, said: “The current plan is to lay up Cotentin after the end of next month, so she does not currently feature in our freight timetables after September.

“We’ve made this decision in response to the current downturn in our freight business.

“It’s difficult to say whether or not she’s leaving for good – she may well come back but no firm decision has yet been made.”

Jim Stewart, chief executive of Poole Harbour Commissioners, said: “Naturally PHC are disappointed that the Cotentin service will finish at the end of September.

“PHC have been in discussions with Brittany Ferries to see if a deal could be found to reverse the decision, however regretfully the state of the Spanish and Portuguese economies was a deciding factor.”

He said they also regretted that despite recent strong passenger volumes, the Barfleur would not be operating for 12 weeks, but looked forward to welcoming her back at the end of March.