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Ferry Go-Round Run Up to Easter's Spring Launch of Seasonal Services

16th March 2015
Ferry Go-Round Run Up to Easter's Spring Launch of Seasonal Services

#TheEasterFerries – Ferries are gearing up in advance of the busy Easter break with vessels dry-docking or leaving their hibernation berths ready for Spring service and throughout the season, writes Jehan Ashmore.

On the North Channel, P&O Ferries seasonal fast-craft Express had departed her winter lay-up in Belfast Port yesterday to undertake a passage to Scotland.

This took the 91m Incat craft to Cairnryan, to where P&O Ferries operate year-round services by conventional ro-pax ferries to and from the route to Larne. It is from the Co. Antrim ferryport, that Express is to start operating in just over a fortnight on the seasonal Larne-Troon route with 2 hour 15 minute crossings beginning on 31 March.

Also on the North Channel, the Belfast-Cairnryan route is where Stena Nordica is operating despite her repositioning voyage from Holyhead to Belfast, as previously reported.

It transpires following her direct replacement on the Wales-Dublin Port route by newcomer Stena Superfast X, the smaller ro-pax is to continue in company service before heading for a new career on the Strait of Dover. 

She is serving on the Northern Ireland-Scotland route so to cover Belfast-Cairnryan route Superfast sisters as they take turns to go for overhaul. In which Stena Superfast VII is currently in Harland & Wolf's Belfast dry-dock.

This leaves Stena Superfast VIII running alongside the stand-in 'Nordica' which is the same name of an older ferry that was mentioned by Dan Sten Olsson during his speech of the launch of the Dublin-Holyhead Superfast X last week.

The chairman of Stena referred to the former Stena Nordica as the Swedish company's first ferry to operate on the Irish Sea. The ferry was then in a chartered capacity during service in 1971 on the old Larne-Stranraer route.

In the context of the short sea-route link between these islands, the current Stena Nordica is to start a new career on the Dover-Calais route while under charter to DFDS Seaways. By coincidence, Stena Superfast X had operated for the Danish operator also on the same route while under charter from Stena as Dieppe Seaways.




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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