Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Arklow Marine to Launch New Car Ferry for Rathlin Island Route

27th September 2016
2043 Views
At 40 years old the Canna, the current car ferry serving Rathlin Island from Ballycastle, Co. Antrim and passenger-only route partner, Rathlin Express At 40 years old the Canna, the current car ferry serving Rathlin Island from Ballycastle, Co. Antrim and passenger-only route partner, Rathlin Express Photo: Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd

#NewBuild - Arklow Marine Services are to launch a new car ferry which is to serve Rathlin Island off the Antrim coast, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure (DFI) awarded the contract for the 6 vehicle /140 passenger ferry to the Co. Wicklow based boatbuilder, headed by Billy and John Tyrell.

Responding to Afloat.ie a DFI spokesperson said the Department is still in the process of evaluating the bids for tenderers to operate the new Rathlin ferry.

Following delivery of the new ferry to be named Spirit of Rathlin, the newbuild is to undertake trials for three to four weeks. In addition crew familiarisation is to take place, after which the vessel is expected to come into operation.

The Ballycastle-Rathlin route is operated by the Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd which currently uses three vessels, Canna, Rathlin Express and St. Sorney.

Canna is an ageing ‘Island’ class car ferry, which dates to 1976, having originally served the Scottish West Isles for CalMac. The 40 year-old ferry bow-loading vessel has the same vehicle and passenger capacity of the newbuild. 

In 1997, Canna was transferred to Rathlin with CalMac contracted to run the service. In the following year she was chartered by the Scottish publically funded ferry company to Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd who took over the operation of the service.

In 2009 the passenger-only, Rathlin Express, an aluminium catamaran craft, also built by Arklow Marine Services entered the route.

This leaves the third vessel, St. Sorney, also passenger-only and which serves as a reserve boat. The 40ft ‘Lochin’ cruiser was built by Ryan & Roberts of Limerick.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

Email The Author

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. 

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!

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

DBSC
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club

Featured Brokers

mgm sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events

corkweek sidebutton
tokyo sidebutton
roundireland sidebutton
wave regatta
sovscup sidebutton
vdlr sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
viking sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating