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ICG Charters Transfennica Con-Ro for Irish Ferries Dublin-Wales/France Routes As Oscar Wilde Covers Norbay's Dry-Docking

9th March 2024
ICG has chartered Transfennica’s Timca, a container/ro-ro (con-ro) carrier on a temporary basis to trade for Irish Ferries two Dublin-based routes to Holyhead and Cherbourg, France. Above the con-ro passes the same number of cooling towers in mainland Europe, from where the ice-strengthened 205m vessel had operated on a route linking Finland, Belgium, and also the UK. The freighter carried out berthing trails at Holyhead and previously at Cherbourg, when on a repositioning voyage to Dublin. Some of Timca’s earliest sailings from Holyhead, Afloat, observed on the Dublin Bay horizon, whereas this weekend is operating a Cherbourg round trip in tandem with W.B. Yeats, which for the first time on the Ireland-France routes sees a two-ship service resume when Oscar Wilde rejoins later this month, ending the charter of Timca.
ICG has chartered Transfennica’s Timca, a container/ro-ro (con-ro) carrier on a temporary basis to trade for Irish Ferries two Dublin-based routes to Holyhead and Cherbourg, France. Above the con-ro passes the same number of cooling towers in mainland Europe, from where the ice-strengthened 205m vessel had operated on a route linking Finland, Belgium, and also the UK. The freighter carried out berthing trails at Holyhead and previously at Cherbourg, when on a repositioning voyage to Dublin. Some of Timca’s earliest sailings from Holyhead, Afloat, observed on the Dublin Bay horizon, whereas this weekend is operating a Cherbourg round trip in tandem with W.B. Yeats, which for the first time on the Ireland-France routes sees a two-ship service resume when Oscar Wilde rejoins later this month, ending the charter of Timca. Credit: Transfennica-facebook

Irish Continental Group (ICG), it is understood, has a ‘short-term’ freight charter of Transfennica’s container/ro-ro (con-ro) Timca, operating Irish Ferries two Dublin-based routes to Holyhead and Cherbourg, writes Jehan Ashmore.

As previously reported, the freight-only Timca (details below) has replaced the cruise ferry Oscar Wilde from the Wales and France routes (see photo caption) as Afloat.ie wrote and added to RTE’s coverage of ICG’s financial trading results for 2023. In the same year, Irish Ferries introduced Star chartered from the Tallink Grupp and renamed Oscar Wilde for its Irish role, which until last month made a debut on the Dublin-Holyhead/Cherbourg routes, augmenting Ulysses on the Wales route and W.B. Yeats on the France connection.

Oscar Wilde is currently on relief duty on the Rosslare-Pembroke route as ropax Norbay, also on charter for up to six months from P&O with an option to extend beyond May, is in for a planned three-week annual dry-dock overhaul at A&P Falmouth, Cornwall. This led to a knock-on effect for Irish Ferries following the debut of Timca on 25 February with a Holyhead to Dublin crossing.

On the next day, Afloat tracked the Norbay off service at 14:30 when off Wexford and approaching Tuskar Rock, setting a course into the Celtic Sea, bound for the south-west England facility. This following three cancelled sailings earlier that day, with the operator citing ‘operational reasons’, though at least the night-crossing Oscar Wilde took over, but the sailing was delayed by around 2 hours. This arose as the cruise ferry was kept busy having previously made a repositioning passage from Dublin, which was preceded by a crossing from Cherbourg and the turnaround involved in the capital before attempting to keep to the sailing departure time at Rosslare. 

The reintroduction of the former Baltic Sea ferry to the Rosslare-Pembroke route followed ICG’s announcement last year that the Oscar Wilde would ‘initially’ be introduced in June to replace the Blue Star 1 for the busy summer months. This took place with the chartered Strintzis Line -Blue Star Ferries branded vessel returning to Greece. The 4 hour passage time of the Ireland-Wales route is only twice that of Tallink’s shuttle-service, as Star sailed on the popular two-hour Tallinn-Helsinki capital cities link.

It is understood the Norbay is due to return to the Rosslare-Pembroke route soon, as according to the Irish Ferries booking engine/sailing schedule, an ‘economy’ ferry (which before its dry-docking, was also described as such by the ferry company website) is listed for sailings on 18 March. So the scheduled dry-docking timeframe of three weeks suggests the ropax’s reappearance on the southern service will be on that date, though it had been previously the day after, but its return for now at least is to occur after St. Patrick’s Day.

Also listed on the website’s sailing schedule for 18 March, sees Oscar Wilde back on the Dublin-Holyhead route roster, followed by restarting service on the Dublin-Cherbourg route. The ship will rejoin W.B. Yeats, where the use of two cruise ferries is a first for the Ireland-France route. This will be in advance of the shoulder months leading into the busy summer season. In addition, Irish Ferries can now offer a balance in passenger facilities with the cruise ferries operating on the direct continental connection.

On the topic of facilities, as Norbay is a ropax, its freight-oriented priority is at the expense of providing passengers a range of facilities, which are basic. In addition access is restricted as Norbay does not have a lift to the main passenger deck, but only by a steep staircase and therefore is unsuitable for persons with a disability or reduced mobility, or young children.

This situation for customers has led to widespread criticism by regional media on both sides of the Irish Sea and aired on RTE, in which Afloat will have more to report on as the ferry also does not take ‘foot’ passengers, compounding the situation. This is why and where ICG need to secure a more suitable and permanent ferry with enhanced facilities for passengers.

Afloat awaits a response from both ICG and P&O as to the timeframe status of Timca’s charter and also that of Norbay, as the former would be likely to be just weeks. Whereas the latter ropax would potentially involve months with an option to extend the charter in May as mentioned previously. To recap, Norbay is a stop-gap measure until ICG secures another ferry to compete with competitor Stena Line on the Rosslare-Fishguard route, which has endured technical issues at the start of the new year and has continued as reported this week.

The redeployment of Oscar Wilde away from the Dublin based routes to Wales and France, were until Timca, previously carried out by the ropax Epsilon, whose long-term charter of almost a decade (including its latest owner, Euroafrica Shipping Lines) ceased last year. This led to the smaller ship serving in Scandinavia, with Polish operator Unity Line on the Baltic Sea, after an overhaul at Harland & Wolff, Belfast, took place in December.

Transfennica's Timca (Charter) Trade in Irish Market 

The 28,301 gross tonne Timca is a con-ro of Transfennica Nederland B.V., a Finnish company owned by the Amsterdam-based Spliethoff Group, which operates several fast transport routes between continental Europe, Estonia, and Finland.

Operating at a 20 plus knot speed, the 205m (LOA) ship is one of six ‘Spliethoff’ class con-ro carriers built by the Polish shipyard Stocznia Szczecinska Nowa (SNN) of Szczecin, which too is located on the Baltic Sea.

The versatile vessel with a a 640 TEU capacity, can practically carry any general cargo, including Sto-Ro, containers, trailers, cassettes, mobile cargoes, as well as IMDG-classified goods and temperature-controlled units.

Timca had operated a UK-Belgium-Finland service before the charter, which sees Irish Ferries utilise the con-ro’s capability for 200 trailer units spread across the vehicle decks 2,963 freight lane metres capacity.

The Irish capital link to Wales and connection also to France served by the dedicated freight-only Timca provides a capacity boost on the Brexit-bypass route to mainland Europe, along with other routes aside from Irish Ferries, which has seen a dramatic surge in freight demand on new routes.

In recent years, this has seen both (ro-ro) and (lo-lo) links launched by several operators, some completely new to the Irish market.

Published in Irish Ferries
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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About Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries, owned by the Irish Continental Group, is a a major ferry operator in Ireland, providing daily and weekly links to and from Ireland for tourism and freight travelling between Ireland and the UK and Ireland and the continent. Irish Ferries has a fleet of six ships, three of which service the busy Dublin to Holyhead route.

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