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Aran Islands Ferry to Become Ireland's Largest Domestic Passenger Ferry to Enter Service 2021

18th September 2020
'Saoirse na Farraige' before leaving Hong Kong from where the 40-metre is en route to Galway Bay and will enter service next spring 'Saoirse na Farraige' before leaving Hong Kong from where the 40-metre is en route to Galway Bay and will enter service next spring Photo: Independent / poloconghaile-twitter

A new ferry will be Ireland's largest domestic passenger ferry when the 40-metre 'Saoirse na Farraige' arrives in Galway Bay this October.

As Independent.ie writes the ferry constructed in Hong Kong with a capacity of 400, is expected to enter service next April with Aran Island Ferries.

It will operate from Rossaveel, Co Galway to all three Aran Islands, taking 45-minutes to reach Inis Mór, 50 minutes to Inis Meáin and 55 minutes to Inis Oírr, the company says.

'Saoirse na Farraige' is the sixth ship for a company owned by the O'Brien family of Connemara, who first began carrying passengers to the Aran Islands on a Galway Hooker, under sail, decades ago.

"We know it’s an extremely difficult time for businesses in many sectors (ours included), but we hope this will brighten up Galwegians’ spirits and that when we travel again, the ferry will have a positive impact on tourism in the west of Ireland," said Sales and Marketing Manager, Áine McLoughlin.

For furthermore on this newbuild ferry click here. 

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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