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Scenic Ulster: Ferries Part of Ireland’s Largest Domestic Operator

24th September 2017
Scenic Ulster: Ferries Part of Ireland’s Largest Domestic Operator

#ferry –This summer saw the much awaited launch of Scenic Carlingford Lough service, however the Limerick based owners introduced another ferry in Ulster this season, writes Jehan Ashmore.

To recap firstly is the new historic first Carlingford service which saw operator, Frazer Ferries Group began sailings in July. The route is operated by the 44 vehicle ferry, Frazer Aisling Gabrielle plying the lough between Greenore, Co. Louth and Greencastle, Co. Down.

Originally the launch of Scenic Carlingford Ferry was to have taken place in June, however there were delays due several reasons, among them installation of bespoke navigational aids. On installation of these bouys, the former Shannon Ferries serving vessel and Lough Foyle ferry could finally begin crossings in July. The crossing of Carlingford Lough taking only 15 minutes.  

The use of ‘Scenic’ as a trading prefix along with its the Lough Foyle counterpart is part of the corporate branding exercise by Frazer Ferries. By coincidence, Scenic Lough Foyle ferry also operates out of another Greencastle, but in Co. Donegal and connecting Magilligan Point in Co. Derry.

Formerly operating this route was Foyle Venture (of previous owners) which was transferred to the new Carlingford operation and renamed Frazer Gabrielle Aisling. In turn taking place on the Foyle route this summer was the newly introduced Frazer Mariner. This smaller ferry had served a career in Germany. 

Both Ulster services save on mileage providing a short-cut for local motorists. In addition providing options for visitors to take touring routes and boost local economies.

Frazer Ferries are the largest operators of domestic services on the island of Ireland as last year the ferry firm acquired the business Passage East Ferry Company established in the 1980’s.

The ferry, F.B.D. Tintarn part of the previous outfit, continues to ply the waters in lower Waterford Estuary. This south-east link connects Passage East in Co. Waterford with Ballyhack in Co. Wexford. This route providing a commuter route for those working in Waterford in addition to a tourist short-cut. 

Unlike the northern ferry routes, the southern service continues to retain its former trading name along with the ferry. 

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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