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Further Disruption As Technical Issues Force Ulysses to Be Out of Service Longer

9th July 2018
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Ulysses seen in Belfast Dry-Dock (one of two such facilities) of Harland & Wolff, where further work will involve disruption by up to a fortnight before the cruiseferry can return to service on the Dublin-Holyhead route. Ulysses seen in Belfast Dry-Dock (one of two such facilities) of Harland & Wolff, where further work will involve disruption by up to a fortnight before the cruiseferry can return to service on the Dublin-Holyhead route. Photo: David Gracey posted on Irish Ferries -facebook

#FerryNews - Technical issues for Irish Ferries Ulysses remain unresolved as they are more serious than originally anticipated, forcing the operator to cancel further sailings than expected during the peak season on the busy Dublin-Holyhead route.

Ulysses since late last month has been out of service due to problems with a propeller shaft that led to the largest ferry on the Irish Sea to receive repairs in Harland & Wolff, Belfast. The ferry was due to return to service last Wednesday, 4th July. 

According to a statement issued today by Irish Continental Group (parent company of Irish Ferries), the cruiseferry reported technical issues of the starboard controllable pitch propeller on the (Sunday) 24th June. The investigation and repairs to the vessel were expected to take no longer than 5 days allowing the cruiseferry to resume service on the (Wednesday) 4th July. Service engineers have informed the operator, that the issue is more serious and the cruiseferry will be out of service for a further period of 1 to 2 weeks. 

Irish Ferries added that despite their best efforts they were unable to find replacement tonnage in what is now the peak tourism season.

This is the first major technical problem to beset the Ulysses since introduction of the 50,938 gross tonnage cruiseferry in 2001. The vessel remains docked in Belfast Dry-Dock from where it entered on the 28th June. Afloat had previously tracked the cruiseferry make an overnight passage from Dublin Port on 26th June to Belfast Lough from where anchorage took place off Bangor before the dry dock could accommodate the 209m cruiseferry.

Irish Ferries said it would be contacting affected passengers and has adjusted the schedules of other vessels to minimise the disruption to customers as much as possible.

The operator said it will continue to run the schedule (Ex: Dublin – 08:05 & 20:55 and Ex: Holyhead – 02:40 & 14:10) using their alternate vessel Epsilon and will increase the number of Dublin Swift sailings with an additional round trip in the evening.

The disruption follows last month's announcement from ICG of another delay to newbuild delivery of cruiseferry W.B. Yeats. The cruiseferry which is similar in appearance to Ulysses but larger at around 55,000 tonnes is now set to enter service this autumn on the Dublin-Holyhead.

Originally, W.B. Yeats was to debut on the continental connection linking the capital and Cherbourg, France followed by a launch on the service to Wales in September.

 

 

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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