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ICG's New Fastferry Delivery to US Navy's Military Sealift Command

3rd June 2016
ICG's recently acquired high-speed craft (HSC) Westpac Express has been onward delivered to Sealift LLC who has in turn chartered the fastferry to the US Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) ICG's recently acquired high-speed craft (HSC) Westpac Express has been onward delivered to Sealift LLC who has in turn chartered the fastferry to the US Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC)

#FerrytoUSnavy - Irish Continental Group (ICG) which acquired a fastferry for $13.25 million last month has taken delivery this week of the HSC (high-speed craft) Westpac Express from BALI Westpac 2006, LLC, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The HSC has been onward delivered by ICG to Sealift LLC who has in turn chartered the fastferry to the U.S Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC), a government organisation that controls the replenishment and military transport ships of the navy.

The charter is subject to usual US government procurement regulations and is fixed for a firm 4 month period to 30 September, with charterer's options to extend the charter period to a maximum of 59 months in total. 

The vessel was built in 2001 by Austal Ships, Australia. It has a gross tonnage of 8,403 tonne, passenger capacity of 900 and a car carrying capacity of 182 units. Afloat adds that Irish Sea operator, the Isle of Man Steam Packet's fastferry Manannan built by a rival of Austal, InCAT based in Hobart, Tasmania, had also served a career with the US Navy's MSC. 

Westpac Express is not the only ICG vessel on charter as the former Irish Sea ropax Isle of Innisfree currently the Kaitaki is bareboat chartered ( i.e. without crew) to a third party in New Zealand.

The custom-built 22,365 tonnes cruiseferry 'Innisfree' which became ICG's first newbuild since acquiring the ailing state-owned B&I Line, began operating for Irish Ferries until replaced by larger tonnage.

For almost the last decade Kaitaki has operated Interislander's Wellington-Picton route having entered service in August 2006. The 1,650 passenger/ 600 car/ 108 truck cruiseferry serves the Cook Strait service linking the north and south islands.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

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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