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Winds of Change face former Fastnet Ferry and Sistership

6th April 2012
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Winds of Change face former Fastnet Ferry and Sistership

#FERRY NEWS - With the acquisition of Fastnet Line's Julia to C-BED as previously reported, the Dutch owned company's fleet rises to three floating hotels which are used to accommodate workers in offshore wind-farm energy installations, writes Jehan Ashmore.

All three vessels are former ferries and one of which the Wind Ambition was in recent years based in in the north Irish Sea. The third vessel is Wind Solution, for photos and technicl details of these vessels click HERE. While the former Cork-Swansea ferry has been renamed Wind Perfection (1981/22,161grt) , she remains berthed in Cork city docks having laid-up there since the route's closure last November.

The vessel is however due to undergo an extensive refit in The Netherlands before she takes up a charter in the North Sea with Siemens in October, as a floating hotel for wind-turbine industry employees.

By using the vessel Siemens are to save valuable time and money which would otherwise by the daily transfer of construction workers to and from the mainland. For a video computer simulation showing the different logistics involved between an offshore floating hotel and a conventional hotel onshore, click HERE.

Wind Perfection was originally built as Olau Britannia and shared sailings with sistership Olau Hollandia for a UK-Dutch route between Sheerness-Vlissingen operated by Olau Line.

The sisters were replaced by newer vessels on the North Sea route in the late 1980's and sold to various owners during the years. Before Julia made her Celtic Sea debut, she last ran under the same name for Stella Line on the St. Petersberg-Helsinki route.

Incidentally her sister Norlandia (1981/21,473grt) operates also from the Finnish capital to Tallinn for Eckero Line. Likewise she too is due to undergo changes as she is to be replaced later this year as a second-hand ferry from Mediterranean owners was sold to the Baltic Sea operator.

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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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