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Flagship to Fast Ferry Take Turns for Annual Overhaul

17th January 2017
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For almost two decades the high-speed craft HSC Jonathan Swift (underway in Dublin Bay) has loyaly served the Dublin-Holyhead since 1999. The fastferry annually clocks up an impressive 162,000kms.   For almost two decades the high-speed craft HSC Jonathan Swift (underway in Dublin Bay) has loyaly served the Dublin-Holyhead since 1999. The fastferry annually clocks up an impressive 162,000kms. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#Overhauls- Ulysses flagship of Irish Ferries departed today fresh from annual overhaul having dry-docked at Cammel Laird, Birkenhead on Merseyside, writes Jehan Ashmore.

From Birkenhead the 50,000 gross tonnage Ulysses the 1,875 passenger/ 1,342 car capacity giant proceeded in the early hours along the north Wales coast to Holyhead. The repositioning passage is understood to have almost taken seven hours with an arrival at Anglesey just after 08.00hrs.

Currently occupying a dry-dock of the Merseyside facility is that of Dublin-Holyhead fleetmate, high-speed craft HSC Jonathan Swift. The 800 passenger/200 cars fastferry is also undergoing routine maintenance work. Launched in 1999 as an Austal built Auto Express 86m fastcraft ferry in Fremantle Australia, the 5,000 tonnes catamaran is the only such type of vessel operating between Ireland and the UK.

For almost two decades the ‘Dublin Swift’ as she is marketed has been the workhorse of the Irish Sea operating on the 1 hour 49 minute crossing. Each crossing is at 40knots /80kph on the 60 nautical miles / 111 Kms route which totals annually to an impressive 162,000 Kms.

There is another fastcraft, Manannan but this ferry only operates between the Isle of Man and Liverpool and seasonal calls elsewhere to include Dublin Port.

Providing sailing coverage whilst Ulysses was off service and now that of Jonathan Swift fast is that of Isle of Inishmore which in recent weeks was transferred from Rosslare-Pembroke. The cruiseferry having taken the roster of Ulysses. This is set to change as Ulysses resumes on an afternoon crossing bound to Dublin, permitting Isle of Inishmore to also receive attention of annual overhaul.

Taking her place on the Rosslare-Pembroke service since late last year so to cover demands of seasonal capacity on the busy Dublin route, is Oscar Wilde which does not sail at this time of year to France. The cruiseferry however is to resume service with a crossings from the Wexford port to Cherbourg beginning in March.

Returning to the Dublin-Holyhead route which is also operated by ropax Epsilon. As previously reported on Afloat, the chartered Italian flagged ferry made her first sailing of 2017 on the weekend round trip Dublin-Cherbourg connection.

 

Published in Ferry
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!

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