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W.B. Yeats Makes Debut to France, However Routes from Rosslare Unlikely to Operate in 2019

18th December 2018
The introduction of cruiseferry W.B. Yeats on the direct Dublin-Cherbourg route to France is where those services connecting Rosslare are according to Irish Ferries today, unlikely to operate in 2019. The introduction of cruiseferry W.B. Yeats on the direct Dublin-Cherbourg route to France is where those services connecting Rosslare are according to Irish Ferries today, unlikely to operate in 2019. Credit: Irish Ferries -facebook

#ferry - Since Afloat's tracking on Sunday of German built cruiseferry W.B. Yeats in Danish waters, the brand new ship crossed the North Sea to France, completing a first leg of a delivery voyage to Ireland, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The €144m cruiseferry ordered by Irish Continental Group (ICG) for division, Irish Ferries, docked in Cherbourg earlier today for berthing trials. The call was in advance of the 1,800 passenger/1,200 vehicle cruiseferry entering service on the Dublin-Cherbourg route in mid-March 2019.

In a facebook posting from Irish Ferries late this afternoon, they informed customers that they are unlikely to operate a service between Rosslare and France in 2019. The operator added that they will continue to keep this situation under review and stated that their new W.B. Yeats ship will operate from Dublin to Cherbourg up to 4 days per week.

Irish Ferries also commented that "a majority of our customers have a clear preference for the more central location and easy access of Dublin".

Prior to the debut to France of W.B. Yeats today, the Cypriot flagged 54,000 gross tonnage newbuild also made a transit through the Strait of Dover. This is the world's busiest shipping lane, where up to 400 ships daily transit the narrow strait between the UK and France.

While W.B. Yeats was in these busy waters, ferries were routinely shuttling between Dover and Calais, served by rivals, P&O and DFDS. The latter operator is a giant Danish owned shipping group that briefly entered the Irish Sea ferry market, though ro-ro operations now are concentrated on the English Channel. In addition to services on the North Sea where an extensive freight network serves Scandinavia and beyond in which Afloat will have more to report. 

As for passengers operations on the Dublin-Cherbourg route, customers can look forward to the service operated by the luxury ferry that was many months overdue of this summer's intended introduction. Delays of the 194m newbuild during the crucial high-season, were caused by contractors in supplying the shipbuilder, Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) located in Flensburg. This led to cancellations resulting in a major disruption effecting up to 19,000 passengers. 

The year-round operated Dublin-Cherbourg route, was first launched by Irish Ferries back in 2014, initially served by ropax Epsilon based on a economy no-frills service. From autumn this year, the more-freight orientated ferry was joined by cruiseferry Oscar Wilde, having ended the more established seasonal Rosslare based routes to France. The Cherbourg route began in 1978, albeit by predecessor, Irish Continental Line (ICL) whereas the route to Roscoff was added by Irish Ferries in 1995. 

The deployment in recent months of the 31,000 tonnes Oscar Wilde to Dublin (incl. to Holyhead) has provided an increased choice of service and sailing capacity, while W.B. Yeats remains to enter service in early 2019. Added to this will be the backdrop of whatever Brexit scenario arises, when the new cruiseferry is launched on the direct route linking Ireland and mainland Europe.

In the meantime, W.B. Yeats, today carried out berthing trials firstly at the linkspan on the Quai de Normandie. Following this, the cruiseferry which has 440 cabins, including luxury suites with private balcony sea views and a dedicated butler service, docked at the adjacent Quai de la France.

At this quay is the former Trans Atlantic Ocean liner terminal (Gare Maritime Transatlantique) that still stands and is located in the centre of the port. This grand historic building is occupied by the maritime museum, La Cité de la Mer. 

It will be just a few more days in welcoming W.B. Yeats arrival to Dublin Port according to Irish Ferries. The completion of the maiden delivery voyage, will represent the largest ever cruiseferry for the operator in terms of gross tonnage, compared to the current flagship Ulysses which is 50,000grt and serves on the Dublin-Holyhead route. 

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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. 

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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!