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Momentous Day As W.B. Yeats Docks in Dublin Port Though With Issues Among them Brexit Trading Routes

20th December 2018
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This morning W.B. Yeats arrived for the first time in Dublin Bay (background of Howth Peninsula) having crossed from Holyhead (berthing trials) though the brand new €144m cruiseferry is to enter service on the Dublin-Cherbourg route in mid-March 2019. Capacity is for 1,800 passengers, 2,800 lane metres of freight (165 vehicles) and a dedicated car deck for 300 passenger cars. This morning W.B. Yeats arrived for the first time in Dublin Bay (background of Howth Peninsula) having crossed from Holyhead (berthing trials) though the brand new €144m cruiseferry is to enter service on the Dublin-Cherbourg route in mid-March 2019. Capacity is for 1,800 passengers, 2,800 lane metres of freight (165 vehicles) and a dedicated car deck for 300 passenger cars. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#ferrynews - W.B.Yeats has at last completed the final leg in a delivery voyage to Dublin Port by making a maiden call to the Irish capital this morning, though amid controversy, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The Irish Continenal Group (ICG) which ordered the 54,000 gross tonnage ferry from German shipbuilders, FSG in Flensburg, was beset with delays from contractors supplying the yard. This prevented the debut of the 1,800 passenger/1,200 vehicle newbuild enter service this summer on the Dublin-Cherbourg route, causing cancellations to thousands of holidaymakers.

Irish Ferries now has the largest ferry ever to operate on the direct Ireland-France route when services to and from mainland Europe are scheduled from mid-March 2019.

Among the facilities, given names connected to W.B. Yeats, one of the most significant figures of 20th century literature, is The Maud Gonne Bar & Lounge and Innisfree Club Class Lounge. There's also the entertainment venue of The Abbey & The Peacock Cinema & Lounge. As for accommodation there are 440 cabins including Luxury suites incorporating private balconies and a dedicated butler service. 

The arrival to Dublin Port, however of the Cypriot flagged 194m cruiseferry is against the backdrop of Brexit and reaction from a variety of quarters, as ICG recently announced they are unlikely to operate the long running Rosslare based routes to France in 2019. The company added they will continue to keep this situation under review and said the W.B. Yeats will operate from Dublin to Cherbourg (see recent call) up to 4 days per week.

The decision drew swift critism from the Irish Government which has called on Irish Ferries to reconsider its plans, by retaining the use of the south-east port. This given the backdrop of whatever Brexit scenario looms on the horizon. 

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

Some customers however of Irish Ferries, went online to the ferry's facebook to express their disquiet. While the Irish Road Haulage Association speaking on RTE Radio One yesterday said that the “vague statement” that Irish Ferries is “unlikely” to operate a service between Rosslare and France next summer, means “they are open to negotiation”.

Should Irish Ferries pull out of Rosslare, Stena Line already operate a service between Rosslare and Cherbourg, having taken over Celtic Link in recent years. Stena Line's senior executive, Ian Hampton speaking on RTE Radio, warned that a no-deal Brexit may affect food shipments as traders seek to bypass Great Britain.

When W.B. Yeats is introduced in early 2019, the ship will also be the biggest ever ferry to serve any route from Ireland, eclipsing Irish Ferries Ulysses. The Finnish built cruiseferry when introduced in 2001, became the flagship of the fleet on the Dublin-Holyhead route to cope with increasing demand during the boom of the 'Celtic Tiger'.

The Ulysses continues operating the core Irish Sea service, as does the Oscar Wilde, which having stopped Rosslare-Cherbourg (and seasonal Roscoff service) in recent months, also serves the year-round operated Dublin-Cherbourg route. 

Oscar Wilde, which at 31 years old, no longer features on the operators website depicting the ferry 'fleet' which would seem to suggest other plans for the ageing ferry. 

The rest of the fleet are the chartered in ropax Epsilon serving both Holyhead and Cherbourg out of Dublin. The seasonal only fastferry Dublin Swift also on the Anglesea port route and final member of the fleet, Isle of Inishmore which links Rosslare and Pembroke in south Wales. 

 

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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. 

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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