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W.B. Yeats Completes First Season on Ireland-France With Follow Up Dry-Docking in Dunkerque

14th October 2019
W.B. Yeats on the occasion of a first call to Rosslare Europort which took place in December, 2018. A repeat call to the Wexford ferryport occurred at the weekend in addition to a first visit to Pembroke Dock, Wales where the port authority confirmed to AFLOAT that berthing trials were made with a view to cover future dry-docks of the Rosslare route's ferry Isle of Inishmore. W.B. Yeats on the occasion of a first call to Rosslare Europort which took place in December, 2018. A repeat call to the Wexford ferryport occurred at the weekend in addition to a first visit to Pembroke Dock, Wales where the port authority confirmed to AFLOAT that berthing trials were made with a view to cover future dry-docks of the Rosslare route's ferry Isle of Inishmore. Photo: Rosslare Harbour Maritime Heritage Centre (Brian Boyce) -facebook

W.B. Yeats has completed a first high-season on the year-round operated Dublin-Cherbourg route and the €144m cruiseferry built in 2018 made its inaugural dry-docking in France this morning, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Afloat tracked W.B. Yeats to Dunkerque (East) and taking its place on the direct Ireland-France route sailings is the ropax Epsilon. The 194m long W.B. Yeats was assisted by a pair of tugs, Aventereux and CB Cyclone into a dry-dock at the northern French port.

The considerably larger capacity of W.B. Yeats connecting the Irish capital and mainland continental Europe is a massive boost for Irish Ferries when compared to then Cartour Epsilon which launched the route in 2014. Since then the scenario of 'Brexit' highlights the direct route's strategic trade importance for Irish hauliers (albeit at the expense of Rosslare-France) in avoiding the UK 'land-bridge' via the Port of Dover. 

At 54,975 gross tonnage, W.B. Yeats is easily the largest ever custom built ferry ordered by ICG, owners of Irish Ferries, however the completion of the newbuild was much delayed at a German shipyard. The cruiseferry was expected to make a debut during the Spring of last year.

The 1,850 passenger W.B. Yeats which also has a capacity for 1,216 cars and 165 lorries, actually made its maiden commercial sailing firstly on the Dublin-Holyhead in January of this year. Since its introduction the newbuild has received recognition having been awarded prestigious shipping industry awards among them 'Ferry of the Year 2019'.

Welsh duties ended in March, when W.B. Yeats finally entered service on the direct Ireland-France route linking Dublin-Cherbourg over the St. Patrick's Bank Holiday weekend. Recently, the cruiseferry made a brief return on the Irish Sea by sailing to Holyhead in tandem with Ulysses, however a scheduled round trip by W.B. Yeats last Saturday did not take place nor sailings by the Epsilon which was had already taken up duties on the French route.

In not operating the round trip to north Wales, this enabled W.B. Yeats instead make a repositioning coastal run from Dublin Port to Rosslare Europort. The Wexford port became the new ship's first Irish port of call as part of the delivery voyage last year, during December from the FSG shipyard in Flensberg, Germany. W.B. Yeats then however headed first for Holyhead prior to the newbuild's debut at its Irish homeport in Dublin.

Afloat also tracked W.B. Yeats depart Rosslare on Saturday evening as the cruiseferry made a leisurely overnight non commercial sailing to Pembroke Dock. This was to facilitate routine ferry Isle of Inishmore complete a scheduled sailing in advance.

The south Wales port thus became the final ferryport of the Irish Ferries route network not so far visited by W.B. Yeats. The call to the Pembrokeshire port was for the purposes of conducting berthing trials which took place on Sunday morning following the Isle of Inishmore's departure at 06.46hrs.

W.B. Yeats call to the Pembroke Dock Ferry Terminal, operated by the Milford Haven Port Authority was confirmed to The MHPA added the trials was with a view to cover future dry docks of the Isle of Inishmore.

Published in Ferry
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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