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Ulysses Celebrates 10 Years of Irish Sea Service

19th April 2011
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Ulysses Celebrates 10 Years of Irish Sea Service
The flagship of the Irish Ferries fleet Ulysses celebrates her 10th anniversary on the Dublin-Holyhead port route, writes Jehan Ashmore.
At 50,938 gross tonnes, the cruiseferry which has space for 1,875 passengers and 1,342 vehicles, remains the largest ferry operating on the Irish Sea. Over the decade she has made approximately 14,000 crossings which equates to 826,000 nautical miles on the route linking the Irish capital and Anglesey, north Wales.

In January 2000 the keel of the worlds largest car ferry was laid at the Aker Finnyards in Rauma, Finland. The following year the €100m cruiseferry giant departed the shipyard on a four-day delivery voyage to Dublin Port. Upon Ulysses's arrival on 4th March she was presented with a traditional welcoming escort of saluting water-firing tugs.

The Ulysses was named at a ceremony in the port on 21st March by the 'golden godmother' Mairead Berry, Ireland's 25-year old Paralympic Games gold medallist. Four days later Ulysses made her commercial maiden voyage to Holyhead on 25th March.

Wih 12 decks the vessel has an extensive range of facilities and they are named with themes derived from James Joyce's famous novel 'Ulysses'. There is seating available for up to 1,938 passengers and there are 117 twin or single-cabins, accommodating up to 228 passengers.

Only two months into service the Ulysses won the prestigious 'Most Significant New Build - Ferry' category award in the Cruise & Ferry magazine 2001 Awards competition. Her Finnish builders are not only builders of large cruise-ferries for Baltic Sea operators and beyond but also are also renowned for the construction of very large cruiseships for international clients.

Ulysses was designed specifically to serve the central corridor route with a schedule of two round trips daily. She directly replaced the 1997 Dutch built 34,031 grt ro-pax Isle of Inishmore, which transferred to Rosslare-Pembroke Dock service.

In 2006 the Ulysses alongside her fleetmates were transferred from the Irish flag to the Cypriot flag in addition to a change of Irish crew with those outsourced from citizens mostly from the Baltic and Eastern European countries.

Due to the sheer size of the Ulysses, which has a length of 209m, a beam of nearly 32m and a 6.4m draught, she has not missed a single crossing due to bad weather conditions. The vessel has a 22 knot / 41kph service -speed on the 60-mile route which translates to a distance of over 182,000 kms a year.

To celebrate Ulysses 10th year in service, Irish Ferries has enhanced the Club Class option to passengers which includes free-Wifi, which enables a constant connection and an array of other benefits during the 3-hour 15 minute crossing.

For a virtual tour of the Ulysses with views taken from the top deck as the cruiseferry departs Holyhead and the mountains of Snowdonia setting as a backdrop plus interior tours of the vessel click here.

Published in Ferry
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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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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