#AranFreighters - Ireland’s Iargest domestic coastal cargoship that returned from hull works carried out in Co. Donegal earlier this month has yet to re-enter Galway-Aran Islands services, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The 330 gross tonnage cargoship Bláth na Mara normally serves as an essential life-line providing supplies to island communities of all three Aran Islands, Inishmore, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr.
Instead Chateau Thierry which has a roll on / roll-off capabilities is currently covering in as relief cargoship on the Galway route. As there is no slipway facilities, cargo loading will involve use of a deck-mounted crane. In the meantime this replacement vessel has allowed ongoing maintenance work to continue on Bláth na Mara while docked in Galway Docks.
Operators of both freighters, Lasta Mara Teoranta normally deploy Chateau Thierry, a former US tank landing craft (see report photo) on a second service to Aran Islands from Rossaveel. This service conveys trucks, excavators and heavy plant and machinery.
The Government contracted service to the Aran Islands have been operated by Lasta Mara for almost two decades. As the sole operator of freight-only vessels this involves carrying a diverse range of cargoes: from all kinds of food, household items, furniture, coal and vehicles hoisted on board and also livestock. This leaves several other passenger-only operators to serve the islands.
The Galway registered Bláth na Mara based out of the mainland homeport had works completed at Mooney Boats in Killybegs. The call to the yard involved Bláth na Mara using the boat-lift raised to the top of the quayside from where the 36m freighter was transferred on a rail-system to the workshop. This enabled shot blasting and painting of the hull. The works also saw anodes supplied and fitted to the hull.
Cargo loading in Galway Port takes place at the outer pier where Lasta Mara Teo has a warehouse. This is from where the 28m Chateau Thierry departed this morning on the islands cargo feeder service.
Otherwise the routine use of Bláth na Mara involves a single cargo derrick swung from an A-frame foremast. Containers are stowed onto the aft-deck. This layout gives the ship a distinctive profile as the wheelhouse is located at the bow unlike the vast majority of cargoships.
On completion of loading the hard-working coastal freighter heads first to the largest island, Inishmore at Kilronan Harbour. Having discharged cargoes on Inis Mor the service continues to neighbouring Inis Meain and Inis Oirr.