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Oscar Wilde Returns to ‘Established’ French Routes to Join New Kid on the Block

25th February 2014
Oscar Wilde Returns to ‘Established’ French Routes to Join New Kid on the Block

#FrenchBoost- Cruiseferry, Oscar Wilde opened the 2014 season of Irish Ferries established Rosslare-Cherbourg route at the weekend, giving a boost in services, following the launch of the new Dublin Port-Cherbourg route last month, writes Jehan Ashmore.

During this off-peak period, the Oscar Wilde had operated winter relief cover on the Rosslare-Pembroke Dock link. As previously reported on Afloat.ie, she also went to A&P Falmouth, from where she recently returned fresh from annual refit so also to serve high-season Rosslare-Roscoff sailings in May.

With Oscar Wilde off-duty then on the French service, Irish Ferries were still able to maintain services to the continent on the new route between the capital and Cherbourg which is operated year-round by the chartered 500-passenger ro-pax Cartour Epsilon.

The 19-hour route is marketed as an 'economy' style alternative to the broader facilities offered by cruiseferry Oscar Wilde on the 17-hour service to Normandy.

It has not been plain sailing for the newcomer, as Cartour Epsilon, encountered a spate of storms, which on occasions led to sailings delayed by a day. This in turn led to some Dublin-Holyhead sailings cancelled, noting the ferry operates daily sailings to Wales and leaving the weekend to cover continental crossings.

In addition, on the initial sailings including her maiden round-trip voyage, the Cartour Epsilon which is designed primarily to carry freight made a scheduled en-route call to Rosslare Harbour, having loaded trade vehicles in Cherbourg before finally completing her return leg to Dublin Port.

Cartour Epsilon's calls to Rosslare are not new, as previously reported, she carried out Rosslare-Cherbourg sailings earlier this year so that Oscar Wilde as mentioned above could in turn carry out relief cover for Isle of Inishmore on the Wexford-Pembrokeshire service.

In fact, the ro-pax made her first ever Irish port of call debut to Rosslare Harbour during her delivery voyage from Messina, Sicily. Likewise to her French debut, trade-vehicles were transported, making sure she was earning her keep while making that repositioning voyage to Dublin Port.

 

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

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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