#NewBuild - Arklow Marine Services are to launch a new car ferry which is to serve Rathlin Island off the Antrim coast, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure (DFI) awarded the contract for the 6 vehicle /140 passenger ferry to the Co. Wicklow based boatbuilder, headed by Billy and John Tyrell.
Responding to Afloat.ie a DFI spokesperson said the Department is still in the process of evaluating the bids for tenderers to operate the new Rathlin ferry.
Following delivery of the new ferry to be named Spirit of Rathlin, the newbuild is to undertake trials for three to four weeks. In addition crew familiarisation is to take place, after which the vessel is expected to come into operation.
The Ballycastle-Rathlin route is operated by the Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd which currently uses three vessels, Canna, Rathlin Express and St. Sorney.
Canna is an ageing ‘Island’ class car ferry, which dates to 1976, having originally served the Scottish West Isles for CalMac. The 40 year-old ferry bow-loading vessel has the same vehicle and passenger capacity of the newbuild.
In 1997, Canna was transferred to Rathlin with CalMac contracted to run the service. In the following year she was chartered by the Scottish publically funded ferry company to Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd who took over the operation of the service.
In 2009 the passenger-only, Rathlin Express, an aluminium catamaran craft, also built by Arklow Marine Services entered the route.
This leaves the third vessel, St. Sorney, also passenger-only and which serves as a reserve boat. The 40ft ‘Lochin’ cruiser was built by Ryan & Roberts of Limerick.