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Celtic Link Ferries Bow Out as Farewell Sailing Returns to Wexford

31st March 2014
celtic ferries funnel
Celtic Link Ferries final farewell sailing arrived into Rosslare this morning from Cherbourg. Photo Jehan Ashmore
Celtic Link Ferries Bow Out as Farewell Sailing Returns to Wexford

#FarewellCelticLink - Celtic Link Ferries final farewell sailing arrived into Rosslare this morning from Cherbourg, marking an end of the era as the Wexford based company are been acquired by Stena Line with effect today, writes Jehan Ashmore, who travelled on board the ro-pax Celtic Horizon.

The last crossing was in command of Captain Richard Collins and his crew of 50 that operate services on board the 27,522 tonnes Visentini shipyard-built ro-pax. The 17-hour continental route will continue to maintain a sailing schedule of three return-crossings weekly when Stena Line rename the vessel for their first sailing tomorrow.

As Celtic Horizon bade farewell to Cherbourg yesterday afternoon, she cast her moorings alongside the former trans-Atlantic liner terminal, now the maritime and undersea exploration visitor attraction 'La Cité de la Mer'.

On board Celtic Horizon where excited French teenage students that occupied the uppermost deck drenched in 18-degrees sunlight and to the sound of the ship's horn marking her final departure.

Asides the countless coach based students that have travelled since Celtic Link began reinstating the service in 2005, after P&O Ferries abandoned the route the previous year, the company has catered for a diverse market that includes passengers on foot and in cars, camper-vans and motorcyclists.

In respect to freight, this involved un-accompanied freight-units and trucks notably carrying livestock trade, in which 18 such large trucks were conveyed on yesterday's sailing to Cherbourg during the busy calve season. Over the years there have been contracts to import French manufactured trade vehicles.

Of primary importance is fish exports to French, Spain, Italy and beyond, this was one of the major reasons why the owners of Celtic Link, the O'Flaherty brothers (and local investors) who operate a fish processing plant in Kilmore Quay and fleet of more a dozen trawlers purchased P&O's service.

Celtic dep Cherbourg

Celtic Ferries departs Cherbourg Photo Jehan Ashmore

The deal had involved the route's existing freight-vessel European Diplomat, which incidentally formed part of the Falklands Task Force in 1982, however as Celtic Link's 'Diplomat' she served a limited passenger service for Celtic Link. She was displaced by ro-pax Norman Voyager which last week started new Brittany Ferries Économie services.

In 2011 Celtic Horizon which is the same ro-pax design of Norman Voyager, entered service on a five-year charter from the Italian shipyard owners to Celtic Link.

Celtic Horizon became the first and only vessel during the last nine years of the ferry company to be given a name reflecting her trading route and her owner's brand name displayed on her funnel.

Watch this space... with further reports from Afloat.ie's dedicated Ferry News section.

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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