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Ferries In Art: Rathlin Island Pair Captured Underway On Sea of Moyle

12th March 2017
FERRIES IN ART: In this colour sketch by John Baird are the Rathlin Island ferries Rathlin Express and Canna (soon to be replaced) by a new Arklow built car ferry to serve the six mile crossing on the Sea of Moyle. FERRIES IN ART: In this colour sketch by John Baird are the Rathlin Island ferries Rathlin Express and Canna (soon to be replaced) by a new Arklow built car ferry to serve the six mile crossing on the Sea of Moyle. Photo: Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd

#FerriesInArt – A beautiful art work depicting the current pair of Rathlin Island serving ferries will be a lovely keepsake for the operator as one of the vessels is soon to be replaced by a newbuild, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The colour sketched drawing show the ferries underway off Fair Head on the stunning Antrim coast and also on Rathlin. They are operated by Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd. On the left is the passenger-only fast-craft Rathlin Express and the vehicle-loading Canna which is to be sold as new car-ferry is to take over this Spring. 

Canna, a veteran vessel dating to 1976 will be replaced by Arklow Marine Services built Spirit of Rathlin which notably made a hisitoric call to Greystones Harbour, Co. Wicklow. The call last month was to enable the 28m long newbuild carry out berthing-vehicle loading trials at a slipway that involved a car and a van. The east coast harbour was built in recent years to include a marina that replaced a much smaller harbour that was restricted to boats only using moorings.

On a related note, Spirit of Rathlin will use newly upgraded facilities in Ballycastle Harbour from where the service is operated on behalf of the Northern Ireland Government. The Department for Infrastructure commissioned the new ferry and in which the Dfi have on charter tendered to Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd.

Afloat adds that the Spirit of Rathlin will notably be the first custom built car ferry to serve Rathlin Island. Visitors however are not permitted to bring their vehicles onto the only inhabited island off Northern Ireland which has population of around 150 and is increasing. The passage times across the Sea of Moyle take 45 minutes by Canna while those undertaken by Rathlin Express are not surprisingly less by taking just 25 minutes.

The Spirit of Rathlin will have the same capacity of the Canna, which can handle six vehicles and 140 passengers, however the newbuild has slightly overall larger dimensions. In addition to a more spacious lounge for passengers housed in a bigger superstructure, likewise of Canna is located at the stern.

The origins of Canna given its namesake are a clue, as the ‘Island’ class was one of several commissioned for the Scottish Government state funded ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac). They extensively serve the Inner and Outer Hebrides that form the Western Isles.

Incidentally, Canna when first introduced on the Rathlin Island service which was operated by CalMac. In 2008 Cork businessman Ciaran O’Driscoll took over the ferry service having already established one serving Cape Clear Island. A unique position to be in by operating to Ireland’s most southerly island while also to Rathlin, its most northerly.

The Cape Clear Island Ferry service links Baltimore as well Schull using a trio of passenger-only ferries.

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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