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W.B. Yeats to Arrive Today in Rosslare Where 'Europort' Is Centre Stage to Minister's Reaction on Irish Ferries Announcement

19th December 2018
W.B Yeats is heading ever closer to Irish shores during its maiden delivery voyage, though with landfall today, firstly to Rosslare Europort. It is from the Wexford port where Irish Ferries services to France in 2019 remain in doubt which has led to a swift response from the Irish Minister of Tourism given the context of post-Brexit and implications on direct freight links to mainland Europe. W.B Yeats is heading ever closer to Irish shores during its maiden delivery voyage, though with landfall today, firstly to Rosslare Europort. It is from the Wexford port where Irish Ferries services to France in 2019 remain in doubt which has led to a swift response from the Irish Minister of Tourism given the context of post-Brexit and implications on direct freight links to mainland Europe. Photo: Irish Ferries -facebook

#ferry - Irish Ferries W.B. Yeats inaugural call to France yesterday for berthing trials in advance of starting service from Dublin in 2019, is to be followed today with a call to Rosslare Europort before finally completing the maiden delivery voyage to the capital, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The €144m cruiseferry built in Germany for parent company Irish Continental Group (ICG), was originally to begin service this summer. Delays by contractors supplying the shipyard, caused much disruption to high-season holidaymakers, that led to a revised entry of service on the Dublin-Cherbourg route now scheduled for mid-March.

Despite yesterday's facebook announcement from Irish Ferries to inform customers that they are unlikely to operate a service between Rosslare and France in 2019, Afloat adds according to online tracking, the Cypriot flagged W.B. Yeats is scheduled to arrive in Rosslare Europort at around 12 noon today.

The call by the new cruiseferry is to enable berthing trials and is no doubt just a practical exercise to cover all contingency scenarios across the company's route network. 

Minister's Response on Rosslare routes future

In response to the announcement, a statement was issued late last night from the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD regarding Irish Ferries Rosslare service. "I note Irish Ferries' communication this evening regarding their Rosslare service.

The service is an important transport service for the South East region. From a tourism perspective, while it mainly facilitates Irish tourists holidaying in France, it also brings French and other European tourists to the South East region.

Given the importance of these services, I have asked my officials to engage with the company."

Afloat adds if the outcome of no Rosslare based service arises in 2019, the Europort however will maintain direct links to mainland Europe as Stena Line operate a Rosslare-Cherbourg service.

Competition however could arise (taking the place of Irish Ferries), as according to The Irish Times yesterday, an operator already serving between Ireland and the UK, has approached the Wexford port to consider a service given the potential of a post-Brexit and thus releasing pressure out of Dublin Port. The capital's port is notably where 80% of freight from Ireland currently goes through the port via the UK landbridge with onward links chiefly through Dover to mainland Europe.

For further related coverage albeit from yesterday, including reaction from the Irish haulage sector, click here. 

Historical Backgound 

The south-east port is where Irish Ferries has operated established routes to France for decades, as the Cherbourg service is a legacy of predecessor Irish Continental Line (ICL) having been launched in 1978. The route to Normandy was followed with a service to Roscoff in neighbouring Brittany but opened by the current operator in 1995, however services including those connecting Cork had ceased before 1998.

In that year, a single ship took over both the remaining Rosslare based routes on the direct Ireland-France routes when the 1982 built Normandy was introduced, but the ageing ferry was eventually replaced by current cruiseferry, Oscar Wilde.  

As for the year-round operated route from Rosslare to Cherbourg, this ended prematurely this year, having taken place several months ago. This was a strategic move by the operator, as the Rosslare based cruiseferry Oscar Wilde was redeployed to assist ropax Epsilon on the Dublin-Cherbourg route, given the delay of W.B. Yeats that was to enter during the summer months serving Normandy.

The second route out of Rosslare, to Roscoff in neighbouring Brittany, however was based on a seasonal only basis.

Should both routes not resume service in 2019, this would mark the end of an association of direct passenger and freight links between Ireland and France. The company can trace its origins through predecessors that began the first direct continental service launched 50 years ago, albeit between Rosslare and Le Havre in 1968.

So what next awaits the future of Oscar Wilde? given the former Scandinavian ship was launched 31 years ago.

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. 

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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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