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Former Irish Sea Ferry to run Extended Charter to New Zealand Operators

16th April 2013
Former Irish Sea Ferry to run Extended Charter to New Zealand Operators

#FerryCharter- New Zealand ferry operator Interislander has announced the renewal of the charter lease of Irish Continental Group's (ICG) ferry Kaitaki for another four years, writes Jehan Ashmore.

ICG which are the parent company of Irish Ferries, have chartered out the Kaitaki, (the former Irish Sea ferry Isle of Innisfree) to Interislander since 2005 and where the 22,365 tonnes ro-pax operates on the scenic north-south islands route between Wellington and Picton.

The voyage along the 92km distance long route takes 3 hours to complete across the Cook Strait and has been described as "one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world".

The agreement by ICG to extend the bare boat charter of Kaitaki, to KiwiRail Limited trading as Interislander is a direct continuation from the current charter, which was due to expire on 30 June 2013 and where over the next four years, the annual charter rate is €3.75m.

Kaitaki which is the Maori translation for Challenger, is the flagship of the Interislander fleet and is the largest passenger ferry (with a 1,650 capacity) operating in New Zealand waters.

She has proved to be a valuable member of the fleet where freight levels have reached of up to 60 trucks transported on nightly sailings and to a lesser extent during day-time sailings. In addition the route provides time sensitive perishable goods deliveries between the islands.

Under the charter terms the agreement also provides for an option for Interislander to extend the charter beyond July 2017 for a further period of three years and at a reduced rate.

Originally the Dutch built ferry started a career as Isle of Innisfree, the first custom-built ferry for Irish Ferries, when introduced onto Dublin-Holyhead service in 1995.

Notably Isle of Innissfree's debut not only marked modernisation but investment confidence on the central corridor route which was part of B&I Line operations until ICG acquired the ailing state-owned company several years previously.

Further business accelerated on the Dublin route which led to a larger newbuild Isle of Inishmore enter service in 1997 and in which displaced the 'Innisfree' to Rosslare-Pembroke Dock route.

In turn 'Inishmore' was replaced and also transferred to the southern corridor route upon introduction of the giant new 'flagship' Ulysses in 2001.

With Isle of Innisfree having no role anymore on the Irish Sea in that year, she was laid up until 2002 when ICG chartered the ferry to P&O Ferries. As the renamed Pride of Cherbourg she ran from her namesake port to Portsmouth.

Following English Channel service the 550 car-capacity ferry then spent a stint in the Baltic Sea as Stena Challenger before heading for her current role in the southern hemisphere.


Published in Ferry
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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