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New Ferry Operator for Dun Laoghaire Harbour Remains to Be Seen in 2016?

14th January 2016
Stena Superfast X inward bound to Dublin Port on her first full day in service early last year on the Holyhead route. In the foreground is the raised linkspan of the ferryberth at Dun Laoghaire Harbour (St. Michael's Pier) last used by the smaller fast-craft, Stena Lynx III in 2011. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

#FerryService2016? – A new ferry operator sought for the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route this year remains to be seen following Stena Line's closure of the service in 2014 and with only months away before the summer season begins, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Stena finally confirmed in early 2015 to permanently close the historic route dating to 1835, by consolidating existing operations in neighbouring Dublin Port where since 1995 the company have also run a service to Holyhead.

Responding to, a spokesperson for Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company said at this moment they could not make any further comment on a ferry service in 2016, but they added they hoped to be in a position to make a comment sometime early this year.

It is almost a year ago when DLHC received seven expressions of interest from operators to provide a seasonal-only ferry service to Holyhead following an e-Tender advert.

Commenting then on the expressions of interest recieved, DLHC and said they 'will now consider these' and added 'final configurations would be a matter for discussion and agreement with a new provider, and would be in keeping and take account of the Harbour Company's Masterplan'.

According to a document from the advert, a berth is available which is 140 metres long and with a maximum depth of 5.8 metres. In addition the berthing facility is described as having a shore to ship ramp, which can easily be modified to facilitate the configuration of a new vessel. adds that St. Michaels Pier has two berths, one is custom-built to only accommodate the specialist requirements of the HSS Stena Explorer when the highspeed fast-craft was withdrawn from service in September 2014. There are plans to remove this berth which requires planning permission for its dismantling.

The second conventional berth on St. Michaels Pier was also used by Stena Line when a smaller 'Lynx' fast-ferry craft, Stena Lynx III had also operated the Ireland-Wales route in recent years.

The Stena Lynx III had served shoulder seasons when HSS Stena Explorer reduced operating its full year-round service until 2011. It was in that same year the ‘Lynx’ was sold to overseas owners in Asia.

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!