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Second Route Resumes Service from Ballycastle Not to Rathlin Island.... But Scotland

29th April 2017

#ScottishService - Ballyscastle, Co. Antrim not only has a ferry route to Rathlin Island but also to Scotland where the UK Prime Minister today is making a first campaign ahead of June's snap general election, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Operator, Kintyre Express since the Easter weekend resumed Scottish seasonal ‘passenger’ only services between Ballycastle and Campbeltown located close to the southernmost tip of the Mull of Kintyre. The 1 hour 30 minutes route caters for up to 12 passengers accommodated in the enclosed cabin of RedBay Stormforce 11 RIB craft.

In addition to running services to Port Ellen on Islay part of the Inner Hebrides. There is an option of a ‘Taste of the Islay tour’ where tourists can visit a whisky distillery. Those travelling with Kintyre Express can also take bikes free of charge to explore the stunning scenery of the Kintyre peninsula and that of Islay.

Pictured above is one of the operator’s craft, the KE IV berthed in the marina in Campbeltown. The marina is adjacent to the Campbeltown Fish Quay Improvement works project which was part financed by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund in partnership with the Scottish Government. The debate on the Common Fisheries Policy was one of the main vocal points raised by UKIP in advance to the Brexit vote on 23 June last year.

The sign is also a reflection of the current political situation facing Scotland, given last year’s Brexit vote of the referendum to remain on leave the EU. The majority of the Scottish electorate having voted to remain in the EU, however Theresa May is today expected to ask Scots to vote for her to "strengthen the Union", the economy and her hand in Brexit talks. Against this is the backdrop of First Minister of Scotland and SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon who has demanded for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

Geographically the Mull of Kintyre is the closest point with Co. Antrim of 11 nautical miles. On this stretch of water a ‘car-ferry’ service had begun in 1997 linking Ballycastle and Campbeltown. The service operated by the Argyll and Antrim Steamship Packet Company, a subsidiary of Sea Containers UK, however was short-lived having run for just three seasons served by the former CalMac ferry Claymore (see related report CMAL's Canna serving Rathlin Island).

Claymore notable before her career with AA carried out a very unusual charter during the historic high-profile Irish visit in 1996 of USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier offshore of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The unique visit of the 82,655 tons displacement aircraft carrier took place during the Northern Ireland Peace Process talks.

Claymore ferryied navy personnel and visitors between the anchorage in Dublin Bay and harbour. Such a sight was most odd given how out of context it was for both vessels to be in Irish waters.

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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