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Galway City’s Direct Old Aran Islands Ferry Service to be Restored

13th June 2019
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Port of Galway CEO Conor O'Dowd in front of a regular visitor to the city's Docks, the Corrib Fisher. AFLOAT adds the James Fisher Everard tanker operates from Whitegate Oil Refinery, Cork Harbour which was previously served by Galway Fisher. Port of Galway CEO Conor O'Dowd in front of a regular visitor to the city's Docks, the Corrib Fisher. AFLOAT adds the James Fisher Everard tanker operates from Whitegate Oil Refinery, Cork Harbour which was previously served by Galway Fisher. Photo: Connacht Tribune-facebook

Ferries from Galway City to the Aran Islands will after a lenghtly absence make their return to Galway Docks – with the announcement that Island Ferries will begin operating the service from next year.

According to the Connacht Tribune from May 2020, a vessel that is currently under construction in the Far East will become the largest domestic ferry on the Irish Coast and “will bring a new experience for passengers, never seen on Galway Bay before”.

That’s according to CEO of the Port of Galway, Conor O’Dowd, who said the new ferry was just one of a raft of exciting developments for the port – including the delivery of a new crane allowing for increased business and long-awaited progress on plans to extend the port.

For more on this ferry service development click here

Afloat.ie adds that existing passenger services are operated west of Galway City from Rossaveal in Connemara in addition to those based out of Doolin in Co. Clare.

The last State run operated Galway-Aran ferry service ended in the summer of 1988 when Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) used the custom Dublin-built Naomh Éanna completed at the Liffey Dockyard in 1958 to provide the joint passenger and freight service. As previously reported the veteran vessel is undergoing restoration to serve as a floating luxury hotel on the Liffey. 

Another custom built ferry Oileáin Árann built in 1992 but privately operated by Doolin based O'Brien Shipping served the direct city-islands route. Notably, this was the final ship to provide this link until sold to Samskip an Icelandic based company. 

A cargo-only service currently maintains sailings between Galway and all three Aran Islands. This is operated by Lasta Mara Teoranta's cargoship Bláth na Mara. 

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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!

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