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Epsilon Three Years On Is Due Back Fresh From Overhaul

19th April 2016
The chartered ropax Epsilon after a sailing from Dublin is seen on arrival at Cherbourg The chartered ropax Epsilon after a sailing from Dublin is seen on arrival at Cherbourg Credit: Photo Jehan Ashmore

#Epsilon - Epsilon the ropox which has been on charter to ICG’s division Irish Ferries since 2013, is nearing completion of routine maintenance dry-docking at A&P Falmouth, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 26,375 ton Epsilon is in dry-dock No. 2 while those sailings rostered by the ropax on Irish and French routes remain cancelled. The ferry is however scheduled to re-enter service next Saturday, April 23 on the Dublin-Holyhead. In addition to operating the Dublin-Cherbourg route that weekend with the oubound sailing from the Irish port also next Saturday. 

Epsilon completed in 2011 is one of the popular and proven Visentini ropax class series designed by the Italian yard. Primarily, the ropax concept is to carry large amounts of ro-ro freight vehicles and not catering for high passenger capacity. In the case of Epsilon the passenger certificate is only for 500 passengers and accommodation based on 2 and 4-berth en suite cabins.

The 2.8km in freight vehicle deck lane metres of the Epsilon has contributed in boosting the fortunes of ICG, notably by increasing midweek capacity on the Irish Sea’s premier Dublin-Holyhead in support of daily sailings by Ulysses and high-speed craft, Jonathan Swift.   

Passenger facilities on Epsilon are limited and so the marketing of the vessel on both routes are based on an 'economy class service'. Compared to the luxurious Oscar Wilde, where the cruiseferry has extensive amenities to offer on the Rosslare-Cherbourg route already underway. Next month 'Oscar' is to resume the summer-only Rosslare- Roscoff route.

Epsilon's Irish career has also covered sailings during annual dry-docking of Oscar Wilde on the Rosslare-Cherbourg service. On occasions the ropax has taken on additional business in transporting trade vehicles discharged at the Wexford port.

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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!