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Celtic Link Ferries Look Forward to New Ferry

28th April 2011
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Celtic Link Ferries Look Forward to New Ferry

Celtic Link Ferries are to introduce a replacement ferry on their Rosslare-Cherbourg port route later this year, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The current ship serving the route to France is a modern 26,500 tonnes ro-pax ferry Norman Voyager which entered service for Celtic Link Ferries less than two years ago. The ferry (photo) has a service speed of 22.9 knots and takes 18-hours to travel on the direct route between Ireland and France.  

A spokesperson for the company claimed that bookings for the thrice-weekly round-trip sailings for this season are faster in uptake compared to this time last year. The Norman Voyager can take 800-passengers and 200 vehicles and facilities include 110 cabins, bar, restaurant, lounges, cinema and a shop.

The charter of Norman Voyager ceases in October and this will see the introduction of the acquired vessel on the year-round operated service. A competition is to be run and open to the public so to establish a new name for the vessel.

The new vessel the Cartour Beta (photo) is slightly larger at 27,552 tonnes and will be able to offer facilities with a wider choice of bars, restaurents and play areas. She has a speed of 25 knots, an increased passenger capacity of nearly 1,000 passengers, 800 cars or 150 freight vehicles.

Cartour Beta in the meantime operates on an Italian ferry service run by Caronte and Tourist (C&T) on two routes between Salerno to Messina and Termini Imerese in Sicily.  

Externally in appearance the vessels are very similar except that the Cartour Beta has a continues superstructure that extends to surround the funnel whereas on the Norman Voyager this area is occupied by an open upper vehicle deck.

In fact the replacement vessel is more alike to Stena Line Irish Sea Ferries Belfast-Birkenhead route-ship sisters Lagan Viking and Mersey Viking. Like the Norman Voyager all these vessels are derived from a popular series built by Visentini, an Italian shipyard in Donada near Venice.  

Since Celtic Link Ferries took over the route from P&O Irish Sea in 2005, the company has kept to a keenly priced policy with competition from other operators on the continental routes that also run out of Rosslare Harbour and from Cork.

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Jehan Ashmore

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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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