#HistoricCall – The first ever car-ferry to visit Greystones Harbour, Co. Wicklow made history when the Spirit of Rathlin carried out berthing vehicle-loading trials yesterday, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Spirit of Rathlin, a £2.8m ferry which was only launched last Autumn in Arklow is from where the vessel took the short passage to Greystones Harbour. It's arrival was very much a surprise for a handful of curious onlookers who witnessed the entry of the vessel between the circular pierheads.
The presence of a large commercial vessel added to the novelty factor, given the context of the leisure harbour with its 100-berth marina which occupies the inner harbour.
It was within the outer harbour where the 28m long Spirit of Rathlin berthed at the slipway. Soon after arrival the ramp of the bow-only loading ferry was lowered onto the slipway's concrete surface from where the first vehicle was driven in reverse on board. The red-painted vehicle deck is designed to carry six vehicles.
Spirit of Rathlin’s call to Greystones was due to the harbour's proximity and use of a suitable slipway to conduct such vehicle trials of the 140 passenger ferry. This also involved the testing of loading a van belonging to the newbuild’s boatyard of Arklow Marine Services.
In all the call to Greystones was brief, as the blue-hulled newbuild departed just over an hour later to return to Arklow and berth at the North Quay, where AMS have their boatyard.
The Belfast-registered newbuild was contracted to AMS from Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure. The DFI carried out a tendering process of a new 10 year tender contract to operate Spirit of Rathlin on the Ballyscastle-Rathlin Island service. The tender was awarded to Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd.
Spirit of Rathlin will enter service once works costing £1m to accommodate the new ferry at the mainland Co. Antrim harbour is completed.
The newbuild will replace the current car-ferry Canna. A second passenger-only craft, Rathlin Express also built by the same Arklow yard in 2009 will remain in service.