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Busy Times As Almost All Irish Ferries Fleet Descend On Dublin Port

5th November 2018
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Oscar Wilde approaching Dublin Port following a sailing from Holyhead last month, having repositioned from Rosslare based routes to France, is currently serving out of Dublin Port on the Cherbourg route up to 16th December. Oscar Wilde approaching Dublin Port following a sailing from Holyhead last month, having repositioned from Rosslare based routes to France, is currently serving out of Dublin Port on the Cherbourg route up to 16th December. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#FerryNews - On the October Bank Holiday Monday, almost all Irish Ferries ships docked in Dublin Port from where one of the ferries earlier in the month had also been kept busy in between changing routes, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The presence of four of five of the fleet, albeit not all together at the same time, was still a unique occasion in the capital's port. Each ferry took up berths throughout the course of the day, though not the Dublin Swift, which in early October had completed its first summer season serving Holyhead. During its debut in late April, the catamaran encountered a brief technical clitch when observed briefly coming to a halt off the Dublin Bay Bouy, however the maiden crossing to Holyhead was successfully completed. 

Again, further technical issues led to cancelled sailings just days before the fast-craft stood down as scheduled last month. The Dublin Swift has since been in winter layover in the capital but in late October relocated to berth in Belfast, Afloat will have more to report. The craft is the only Ireland-UK cross channel fastferry and is to resume service in April 2019.

As for the Bank Holiday Monday's four-ferry line up, flagship, Ulysses was the first to arrive into the capital during dusk, having completed a routine crossing from Holyhead. Several hours later, the north Wales route fleetmate, Epsilon, a chartered-in ropax followed suit to dock at Dublin Ferryport Terminal 1. The more freight orientated ferry, with limited passenger facilities provides a 'Economy' no frills service at weekends on the year-round Dublin-Cherbourg link. In addition to those served by cruiseferry (see below: Oscar Wilde) where the schedule is until 16th December 2018. 

It is from Dublin Port's main Terminal, Afloat reported last week, Ulysses encountered technical issues too. This led to a short out-of-service break to enable work be carried out within the port before resuming service as scheduled on the first day of November. Yesterday's afternoon sailing from Holyhead, however was cancelled due to a MES (marine evacuation system) deployment which took place in Dublin Port.

Returning to the Bank Holiday and at around noon the third Irish Ferries ship to Dublin Port was unusually Oscar Wilde, given the time of year. As otherwise, the Rosslare based French routes cruiseferry, would based from previous years continue connecting Cherbourg up to mid December. The second Rosslare service to Roscoff which is seasonal has ceased for this year. 

Instead, Oscar Wilde throughout last month operated additional sailings on the north Wales route, partnering Ulysses and Epsilon as a three ship-service. The overnight cruiseferry, however managed to maintain direct links to France, but from Dublin Port (see more below).

The fourth and final ferry representative of the Irish Ferries fleet, Isle of Inishmore made a leisurely late morning arrival on the Bank Holiday Monday to Dublin Port, having sailed off the Leinster coast from routine south Wales route duties. The timing of the cruiseferry onto the Dublin-Holyhead route seems to be planned in advance, as Isle of Inishmore took over that same day the night sailing rostered to Ulysses which had technical reasons as mentioned above.  

Isle of Inishmore however only spent a few days last week on the Holyhead route but during that time, Oscar Wilde returned to Rosslare to stand in on the Pembroke service. In addition the cruiseferry made a brief reprieve of the Rosslare-Cherbourg route by operating a round trip last week, but again at the expense, this time of a scheduled sailing directly from Dublin. This forced customers to drive to Wexford where it is understood that that sailing was delayed to another day.

In recent days, Oscar Wilde it must be noted, has reappeared in Dublin Port and operating this time only to France, to Cherbourg on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This leaves Epsilon serving at weekends a round trip from Dublin (Saturday's) to Normandy in between weekday sailings to Wales.

As Afloat previously reported the much delayed delivery of the €144m newbuild W.B. Yeats from German shipyard, FSG, which was to have made a debut in early summer, then July on the Dublin-Cherbourg route, finally began sea trials last week in the Baltic Sea.

The giant cruiseferry of 54,975 gross tonnage was also to have transferred to Dublin-Holyhead in September, thus releasing Epsilon to concentrate on the Dublin-Cherbourg over the winter months.

Following the completion of builders sea trails off the Danish Island of Bornholm, will W.B. Yeats finally make a debut on the Dublin-Holyhead route in time for next month's busy festive season? In previous years, either Rosslare based ferries, Isle of Inishmore and Oscar Wilde have boosted additional capacity on the core Ireland-Wales route to cope with demand. 

To keep abreast of sailing updates across the ferry network, click here and ferry repositioning of routes. 

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. 

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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