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Irish Ferries New Chartered Ferry ‘Epsilon’ on Repositioning Voyage

4th December 2013
Irish Ferries New Chartered Ferry ‘Epsilon’ on Repositioning Voyage

#NewFerry – Epsilon the new ro-pax ferry which Irish Ferries has secured a three-year charter contract for Irish Sea and French operations, is underway in the Mediterranean Sea on a repositioning voyage bound for Irish waters, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 2011 built 26,375 tonnes ro-pax ferry is to be introduced firstly on the core Dublin-Holyhead route, boosting capacity as the third vessel in advance of the busy festive season.

In addition to providing daily weekday Irish Sea sailings, from mid-January 2014 she is also to launch a new year-round Dublin-Cherbourg route every weekend, departing the capital on Saturdays and returning on Monday mornings.

Completed by Cantiere Navale Visentini, Italy as Cartour Epsilon, she represents one of more than 20 similar vessels of this ro-pax design which has proven popular in the charter market.

The 500 passenger and crew vessel has been on charter to Caronte & Tourist running between Italian west coast ports and Sicily, from where she departed Messina yesterday and is currently in waters south-west of Sardinia.

Cartour Epsilon is due to call for bunkers in Gibraltar tomorrow night and this route to the UK overseas territory follows that of a sister, Cartour Beta. As AFLOAT.ie reported more than two years ago she sailed off the Algerian coast having departed Palermo and a call to Gibralter before reaching Rosslare Harbour under her new name Celtic Horizon.

The 2006 built Celtic Horizon is also on a three-year charter arrangement from her shipbuilder-owners to Wexford based Celtic Link Ferries which operates to Cherbourg.

When 'Epsilon' enters service this month in the run up to the busy festive period on the core Dublin-Holyhead route, passengers will have economy style facilities on board that include a bar, cafeteria, self-service restaurant, two and four berth cabins and free wi-fi service. In addition the ro-pax will boost vehicle deck space of approximately 2,860 lane metres.

Irish Ferries are to market the Dublin-Cherbourg route to an economy-style service as she differs considerably when compared to cruiseferry style facilities and a broader range of cabins available on board Oscar Wilde.

The new French route will augment the cruiseferry operations of the Oscar Wilde on the Rosslare-Cherbourg route and seasonal only service 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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