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Waterford Hotel Ferry in DryDock Scheduled to Resume Service Before Weekend

25th February 2015
Waterford Hotel Ferry in DryDock Scheduled to Resume Service Before Weekend

#FerryDryDocking – Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort on Little Island, sold recently by Colliers International to new owners of the scenic River Suir estate located a mile downriver of the city is temporally without it's private car-carrying ferry, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 14 car-capacity ferry, Mary Fitzgerald which otherwise normally brings guests to the 4-star hotel and golf patrons across the picturesque King's Channel to Little Island, is currently in a dry-dock having been taken off-service last weekend.

It is understood the ferry is to resume service at the earliest tomorrow or the following Friday of this week. The ferry's passage to dry-dock last Monday involved heading further downriver as far as the disused railway Barrow Bridge and then upriver to the New Ross Boat Yard.

This same dry-dock is where the JFK Trust began building the famine replica barque Dunbrody. The newbuild when completed was floated-out from the banks of the Co. Kilkenny facility this month 14 years ago in 2001.

It transpires that the hotels previous 18-vehicle ferry Loreley as previously reported on Afloat.ie, had already been replaced in August by the 1972 built former Lough Swilly, Co. Donegal ferry Foyle Rambler.

This was the actual ferry that was as advertised for sale at €700,000, albeit as a separate lot to the luxury 19-bedroom hotel. According to the property agency, the new hotel owners also acquired the ferry. 

She is aptly renamed Mary Fitzgerald after the final member of the Fitzgerald dynasty who were the Kings of Ireland all but in name and who resided in their Norman Keep built over 800 years ago.

As for the brief history of the hotel, the original business opened in 1987 and is as otherwise normally accessed by the private-ferry. When Mary Fitzgerald returns to service, she will resume the frequently operated 3-minute passage time between Ballinakill on the mainland and Little Island.

Despite a significant upgrade of Mary Fitzgerald for her new southern role, further work is required to include her Azimuthing Schottel engines which generate 508KW in a channel that can have an 8-knot current. Since her debut, cable-wires have been installed like her predecessors to assist in guiding the ferry between the slipways on either side of King's Channel.

In order to comply with a Marine Safety Certificate, all the current work in the dry-dock is subject to the satisfaction of marine survey officials at the Department of Transport.

As previously alluded, it is understood that the ferry is scheduled to return to service at the earliest tomorrow or Friday. This will see her resume the routine yet busy role of shuttling visitors and staff to and from the island resort.

On the northern shore of Little Island is the Queen's Channel which was widened and and made straighter to make easier access for the current commercial shipping route to reach Waterford City quays.

Up to around 1900, it was the Kings Channel that had served this role, however the majority of present-day vessels berth downriver of Waterford City at the Belview terminal on the Co. Kilkenny side of the Suir.

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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