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Rosslare Ferries Past and Present Profiles

30th December 2012
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Rosslare Ferries Past and Present Profiles

#FERRY FOCUS – Two Rosslare Europort ferries, past and present are profiled in the latest issue of Ships Monthly. Normandy having served a near decade long career with Irish Ferries and Celtic Horizon as previously reported on Afloat.ie which has only been in service since late 2011 serving Celtic Link Ferries.

The former Normandy, a month ago today was beached at Alang, India to undergo scrapping, following failed plans by Singapore owners to convert her to an offshore accommodation vessel for the energy industry.

She had served several routes throughout Northern Europe since her completion in 1982 as Prinsessan Birgitta for her original owners Sessan Line, before becoming part of Stena Line and at one stage she became 'Sealink's flagship St.Nicholas.

Incidentally during Normandy's career until 2007, her younger sister launched as Kronprinsessan Victoria, now named Stena Europe, was by sheer coincidence sailing out of Rosslare and still remains on Stena Line's route serving Fishguard.

Normandy was the first of the Irish Ferries fleet to change flag, where the Irish tricolour was replaced under the Bahamas flag. This initially led to strike action by UK, French and Irish unions that led to a longer-running hostile dispute during 2005/2006 by Irish seafarers whose jobs were ultimately replaced through outsourcing of lower paid agency crews mostly from Eastern Europe.

Eventually the remaining Irish Ferries vessels, flagship Ulysses, cruiseferry Isle of Inishmore and fast-ferry Jonathan Swift also changed flags, but to Cyprus and with a change of port registry to Limassol.

As for Celtic Horizon she is on a charter contract to Celtic Link Ferries Rosslare-Cherbourg service, the 2006-built ro-pax having served Naples-Sicilian routes for Caronte & Tourist.

The introduction of Celtic Horizon brings increased space and higher standard passenger facilities compared to her predecessor Norman Voyager, which too was delivered from the same Italian shipbuilder Visentini near Venice.

At this time of the year CLF are the only operator providing Irish-French sailings until Irish Ferries re-launch cruiseferry Oscar Wilde sailings for their 2013 season starting in late February, initially to Cherbourg followed in May by additional high-season sailings to Roscoff.

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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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