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W.B. Yeats Departs From Where 'Brexit-Busters' Berth But First 'Freight' Sailing Is Now Set for Saturday

14th January 2019

#ferries - It's almost a month ago when W.B. Yeats made a delivery voyage to Dublin Port, since then the Irish Ferries new cruiseferry has until recently included occupying a quayside where the 'Brexit-Busters' routinely berth, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The main priority of W.B. Yeats at its new homeport, was firstly to carry out berthing trials at both linkspans used by Irish Ferries located at the multi-user Terminal 1. This is from where the 1,885 passenger and crew/1,200 vehicle new ship, was to have started service today to Holyhead with an inaugural (initial freight-only) sailings to the north Wales port. 

According to the operator's freight website, however the latest update is for sailings to start this Saturday. As for passenger and freight services, they are scheduled to begin on January 25th. 

In the meantime other passenger and freight sailings are been maintained, though this morning Ulysses departed for dry-dock in Birkenhead. In addition W.B. Yeats is also to operate crossings between Dublin and Cherbourg, France, beginning mid-March.

On completion of the Terminal 1 trials in Dublin, the 194m cruiseferry with 2,800 freight lane metres had berthed within Alexandra Basin from where freight only operator CLdN ro ro S.A. introduced last year, Delphine and Celine. The sisters are the world's largest freight ro-ro ships of their type that serve on direct routes to mainland Europe, Zeebrugge in Belgium and Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The CLdN pair, each an impressive 74,000 gross tonnage and at 234m long with space for 8,000 freight lane metres, have been dubbed the Brexit-Busters. Their nicknames were given as they provide a clear alternative trading route of the UK landbridge via the Irish Sea and English Channel or use of the Eurotunnel.

Afloat contacted the Irish Continental Group, parent company of Irish Ferries, as to why W.B. Yeats had taken up a berth within Alexandra Basin?  The operator responded 'no comment'.

It would appear Irish Ferries have seized an opportunity in between the sailing schedule of the Brexit-Busters, to shift W.B. Yeats into Alexandra Basin. This involved the vessel vacate from a 'layover' mode while alongside the North Wall Quay Extension (beside the East-Link bridge).

During a visit by Afloat to the port, on the W. B. Yeats first of two stints spent in Alexandra Basin, could be seen the cruiseferry's port side bow shell door that was partially open, while facing the berth's (No. 6) ro-ro linkspan. Otherwise for the most part the newbuild over the festive period and into the New Year had berthed (No. 18) next to the East-Link. It is at this particular berth where vessels tend not to be operating for a variety of reasons, unless cruiseships.  

W.B. Yeats, however was on the move again yesterday, having shifted from another 'layover' berth along the south quays, another first for the newbuild. The cruiseferry this time having returned to the opposite bank but to Alexandra Basin (East) which adjoins where the Brexit-Busters berth. At this adjacent quay is another ramp linkspan where CLdN operate services to continental Europe albeit using smaller tonnage.

The moving of W.B. Yeats in between these linkspans in both neighbouring basins, suggests the operator is examining various scenarios in the use of ro-ro facilities throughout the port. These facilities along with 'ferry' terminals are running at record levels to meet the demands fueling the Irish economy, and where the port is making preparations for a No Deal Brexit. 

Against this backdrop of W.B. Yeats debut into commercial service, the Irish Government have been making Brexit port related contingency measures in Dublin and at Rosslare Europort. While looming on the horizon, in the UK, is this evening's momentous Houses of Commons Vote on Brexit to accept or reject the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. 

The importance of Ireland-EU trade it is predicted by experts in the shipping industry, will see a trend for ships in size similar to CLdN's, particularly post-Brexit, and will become increasingly more important in operating direct transport trading links between Ireland and mainland Europe.

Such key trade routes has seen the Brexit Busters make use of a custom-built rotating ramp linkspan (Berths 31/32). This unique linkspan of the port, permits flexibility for next-generation ro-ro giants to use either quays subject to where other nearby ships are allocated. The linkspan is part of new infrastructure invested in the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project.

The ABR project forms phase 1 of Dublin Port's Masterplan up to 2041. Ongoing works involve quay reconfiguration to increase space and accommodate larger and deeper drafted cargoships in addition capable of accepting some of the world's largest cruiseships. This is take place at a dedicated double berth cruise-terminal, marking another new chapter for the port.

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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