Brittany Ferries is to charter two new ferries to sail between the UK and Spain as it prepares to meet post-Brexit travel demand.

The two ships, to be built in China, will serve the Portsmouth to Santander and Bilbao routes.

The first is due to enter service in summer 2021.

The investment comes after work began this spring on a new liquefied natural gas-powered ferry called Honfleur to serve the popular Portsmouth–Caen crossing.

Like Honfleur, which arrives in 2019, both ships announced today will be registered under the French flag and will be crewed by French seafarers.

Together the three ships will spearhead a five-year fleet-renewal and modernisation project worth around £400 million.

Brittany Ferries said the two new vessels will be the longest in the fleet at 700 foot and carry about 1,000 passengers, including 300 en-suite cabins.

They will cater for “an ever-increasing demand for long-haul ferry travel” to Spain.

Brittany Ferries president Jean-Marc Roué said: “Spain is by far the most popular foreign destination for UK holidaymakers, and we have seen significant growth in demand.

“Post-Brexit, we expect this to continue and today’s announcement is a clear statement of intent.

“As well as passenger traffic, we believe that an increase in freight capacity will open the door to more hauliers seeking direct access between Britain and the Iberian peninsula.”

The company carried 331,000 passengers and 150,000 cars last year as it operated 844 sailings on routes from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth to Santander and Bilbao.

The plan for new ferries follows the start of the first direct ferry service between Ireland and Spain.

Brittany Ferries’ ship Connemara made its first call into Santander from Cork on May 9.

The year also marks 40 years of continuous services linking the UK with northern Spain with more than 5.5 million carryings since 1978.