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Former Swansea-Cork ‘Peoples Ferry’ Re-Sold to Mediterranean Operator

2nd February 2016
The Fastnet Line ferry, Julia making an early morning arrival to Cork Harbour, before the route to Swansea closed in 2011. This year the vessel is to resume a ferry career in the Mediterranean for Italian operator Moby Lines. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

#FerrytoMed - The Fastnet Line ferry Julia which ran the Cork-Swansea link until the route closed in 2011, has been sold on from a floating accommodation owner to a Mediterranean based ferry operator, writes Jehan Ashmore.

C-Bed, a Dutch company specialising in accommodating workers offshore on ships during the construction of wind-farm turbine sites, sold the vessel to Moby Lines. The Italian operator is to launch the ferry this summer on a new France-Corsica route.

The change of ownership will be the first time Wind Perfection will resume in a ‘ferry’ role since Fastnet Line’s Julia operated the year-round service on the Celtic Sea. In recent years the Wind Perfection was stationed on the Irish Sea at a wind-farm installation site off the outer approaches leading to Heysham, Lancashire.

The new Moby Line service on the Nice-Bastia route is to begin in June and will be part of a network of routes from French and Italian mainland to ports on Corsica, Sardinia and Elba.

By introducing the 1,850 passenger/325 car/30 truck capacity Wind Perfection to be renamed Moby Zaza, the newcomer will be in direct competition with Corsica-Sardinia Ferries. Likewise of Fastnet Line, the route will operate overnight crossings of 9 hours albeit not as long the 11 hours duration on the Celtic Sea. 

At 22,161 tonnes Julia was easily the largest ever ferry to sail on the southern Ireland-Wales service that Fastnet Line began in 2010 having acquired the 1981 German built ferry from a Finnish Bank through the Cork Tourism Co-Operative Society Limited. Because of the initiative by the co-operative that founded Fastnet Line, the company was dubbed “the peoples ferry“.

The restored route followed the withdrawal by Swansea Cork Ferries with the sale of the Superferry.

Today, it is exactly four years ago when Fastnet Line announced on 2 February, 2012 that the route would close and that there would be no sailings in that year, following a failed examinership with the direct loss of 78 jobs.

Despite the efforts of Fastnet Line, they were unable to attract sufficient year-round freight business and seasonal UK based tourist market. The venture failed to secure funds of €1m plus to enable further trading on the Celtic Sea. The company claimed expected losses of €30 million in direct tourist spending in the Munster region and over €20 million in south Wales.

In 2013, a report concluded any attempt to reinstate the service was not feasible due the "economic and competitive climate”.

This leaves the current southern corridor routes confined to short-sea services operated from Rosslare to southern Wales. They are Stena Line sailing to Fishguard and Irish Ferries running to Pembroke (see, new director for Milford Haven).

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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!