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Irish Ferries Celebrates 40 Years Direct Passenger Car Ferry Between Ireland & France

7th June 2013
Irish Ferries Celebrates 40 Years Direct Passenger Car Ferry Between Ireland & France

#irishferries – Forty years ago this year, in June 1973, the direct passenger car ferry service between Ireland and France now operated by Irish Ferries began operation.

Managed by the then Irish Continental Line – subsequently joined by B&I Line under the Irish Ferries flag – the route was serviced by the passenger ferry vessel St. Patrick which had been built in Bremerhaven, Germany exclusively to service the route.

Initially, sailings operated between Rosslare and Le Havre. Later, services to Cherbourg and between Cork and Le Havre were added. Subsequently, because of the longer sailing time involved, services to/from Le Havre and Cork were discontinued. In time, a route to the French port of Roscoff was added to the schedule allowing Irish holidaymakers easier access to their favourite destinations along the west coast of France.

Today, direct services from Rosslare to Cherbourg and Roscoff continue to play an important part in Irish Ferries operations. Serviced by the vessel Oscar Wilde, the service operates year-round on a three sailings per week schedule and carries in excess of 200,000 passengers annually.

In business terms, the service makes a significant contribution to the economic welfare of Wexford and the South East generally, bringing benefit to accommodation and hospitality providers and others within the retail and services sector throughout the region. In addition, it plays a pivotal role in underpinning Rosslare Europort's status as an international ferry terminal through which substantial numbers of passengers and freight units pass each year.

Commenting on the anniversary, Irish Ferries Marketing Director, Tony Kelly said "over the past four decades, our services to France have made a significant contribution towards building Ireland's links with communities throughout Europe, especially within France, Germany and the Benelux countries."

"In trade, education, cultural affairs and in many other aspects of life, the connection that we have provided between Ireland and the mainland of Europe has been one of the key elements in Ireland's development as a leading EU member state" Mr. Kelly said.

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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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