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Irish Ferries Former 'First' Fast Ferry Jonathan Swift Departs On Delivery Voyage to the Mediterranean

28th April 2018
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A scene no more: High-speed craft (HSC) Jonathan Swift increases speed near the Dublin Bay Buoy on a routine crossing to Holyhead. Today the HSC departed the capital on a delivery voyage to new Spanish owners, Balearia who are to launch the craft on routes in the Mediterranean.  A scene no more: High-speed craft (HSC) Jonathan Swift increases speed near the Dublin Bay Buoy on a routine crossing to Holyhead. Today the HSC departed the capital on a delivery voyage to new Spanish owners, Balearia who are to launch the craft on routes in the Mediterranean. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#FerryNews - Irish Ferries former first fastferry, Jonathan Swift departed Dublin Port today under new name Cecilia Payne for Spain, a day after a larger replacement craft Dublin Swift took over Dublin-Holyhead sailings, writes Jehan Ashmore.

In January Irish Continental Group (ICG) parent company of Irish Ferries announced that it was to sell the high-speed craft (HSC) to Balearia Eurolineas Maritimas S.A. for an agreed consideration of €15.5 million. 

Jonathan Swift is an Austal-Auto Express 86m catamaran which spent a career spanning almost two decades on the core Ireland-Wales route when launched into service in 1999. The 800 passenger/200 car catamaran built by Austal Ships Pty, Australia, became the first fast-ferry ordered by ICG.  

At a ceremony in 1999 held at Dublin Ferryport Terminal 1, the high-speed craft (HSC) Jonathan Swift was christened by Cecilia Larkin, then the partner of then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

During the past 18 years, the craft marketed as the 'Dublin Swift' operated crossings in just 1 hour 49 minutes. When introduced, the HSC operated alongside cruiseferry Isle of Inishmore which was replaced in 2001 by larger conventional tonnage in the form of Ulysses. In more recent years the flagship was joined by the chartered-in ropax Epsilon.  

Departures today of both HSC took place in the afternoon and around ten minutes appart from the capital. This involved Dublin Swift (ICG acquired in 2016 and subsequently chartered overseas), first to pass the Kish Bank Lighthouse and bound for Wales. Astern, Cecilia Payne likewise set a similar course until rounding the lighthouse and then headed for the Bay of Biscay. The next port call is La Coruña in Galicia, northern Spain and eventually the Mediterranean where new owners Balearia await delivery.

When Cecilia Payne debuts in the Mediterranean on 1 June, it is thanks to the 35 knot capable catamaran that reduced sailings times will be made available on two routes: The Dénia (mainland)-Ibiza route and Ibiza-Palma, each taking only 2 hours to complete.

The craft's name of Cecilia Payne has been chosen by Balearia in recognition of the famous Anglo-American astronomer and astrophysicist. She was honoured for her work on the stars and as the first woman to teach at the famed Harvard University.

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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. 

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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