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World Famous ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ Fleet Reduced

21st December 2012
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World Famous ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ Fleet Reduced

#MERSEY FERRY – One of three River Mersey ferries, the 50 year-old Royal Daffodil is to be withdrawn from service in January 2013. The ferry will be laid-up following declining passengers and significant losses incurred by Mersey Ferries (Merseytravel), writes Jehan Ashmore.

Cllr Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel said, "We recognise the place the Ferries hold in Merseyside lore and culture, and that they are an essential part of our heritage. We are committed to keeping them in operation".

He added, "But we also have to recognise that times have changed. Passenger numbers have fallen, to around 650,000 annually, and an operating deficit of £1m per annum cannot be sustained".

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Royal Daffodil operates 'party' cruises, in which the last such commercial sailing in 2012 was carried out last weekend, followed by a staff Christmas party cruise.

The ferry launched as Overchurch in 1962, is to leave service also due to engine-problems and limited external deck space, which is considered less suitable than her fleetmates serving the cross-river commuter service, particularly at peak times.

The younger 1960 built fleetmates Snowdrop (ex Woodchurch) and Royal Iris of the Mersey, also commissioned for Mersey ferry service, will in 2013 continue operating commuter shuttle services and running Manchester Ship Canal cruises.

Incidentally 'Royal Iris' which under her original name Mountwood, was chartered to serve as a tender for the US Navy aircraft-carrier USS John F. Kennedy while at anchorage off Dun Laoghaire Harbour in 1996. She carried US Navy crew and thousands of visitors back and forth to the harbour's Carlisle Pier, then in its final year as a ferry terminal.

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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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