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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 March, 2004, 15:47 GMT
Maiden voyage for super-ferry
Pont Aven ferry
The German-built super-ferry uniquely comes into dock stern-first
One of the world's largest ferries entered service on Wednesday afternoon when she sailed from Plymouth to Santander in Spain.

Brittany Ferries' 100m Pont-Aven will also operate on routes between Cork and Plymouth to Roscoff in France.

The company claims it is the first northern European car ferry to have the kind of facilities normally only found on cruise ships.

The Pont-Aven is 20 metres longer than any previous ferry to use Plymouth.

The German-built super-ferry uniquely comes into dock stern-first.

Lifts on the Pont Aven
A number of stylistic features have been included on the ship
Its arrival has meant there has had to be significant investment in Plymouth's Millbay Docks to help accommodate it.

Brittany Ferries managing director David Longden said: "We have had to invest millions of pounds with our hosts in Plymouth, Associated British Ports, dredging, moving buoys, moving fenders and moving link spans, which are the bits you drive over to get onto the ship.

"It has taken us about two years to do the work, which is about the same time it takes to plan and build a major ship like this."

The new ship has been welcomed by local residents who overlook the ferry port.

Pont Aven swimming pool
The swimming pool has a retractable roof
Tony Gattward, of Millbay Marina Residents' Association, said: "Looking through the window she is a beautiful sight and a lovely vessel.

"As long as she doesn't kick up so much silt that our marina disappears, we will be very happy and make her welcome."

Among the ferry's stylistic features is a transparent lift in the central atrium of the vessel.

The glass roof over the swimming pool on board the ship is also retractable.

Having made so much investment, Brittany Ferries has committed itself to staying in Plymouth for at least the next 15 years.

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