#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.
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.