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Ferries from the Mediterranean Meet offshore of Rosslare Europort Bound for French Ports

27th March 2021
The latest 'Brexit Bypass' freight-ferry to enter DFDS's Rosslare Europort-Dunkirk, the chartered Pelagos is today making a first round trip on the direct route to continental mainland Europe. The smart livery of the Marseille based owners La Méridionale is seen as the 'Visentini' shipyard series ro-pax approaches Rosslare during its maiden inbound crossing on Thursday from Dunkirk. The second ferry from the 'Med', Mega Express Four operates for Irish Ferries Dublin-Cherbourg route (at weekends) in addition W.B. Yests, to provide much in demand freight-capacity. The Corsica Ferries vessel arrived in Cherbourg at lunchtime (Irish time) today, whereas Pelagos continues on the English Channel and is yet to transit the Strait of Dover (see: Irish Ferries to launch new service) before reaching Dunkirk. The latest 'Brexit Bypass' freight-ferry to enter DFDS's Rosslare Europort-Dunkirk, the chartered Pelagos is today making a first round trip on the direct route to continental mainland Europe. The smart livery of the Marseille based owners La Méridionale is seen as the 'Visentini' shipyard series ro-pax approaches Rosslare during its maiden inbound crossing on Thursday from Dunkirk. The second ferry from the 'Med', Mega Express Four operates for Irish Ferries Dublin-Cherbourg route (at weekends) in addition W.B. Yests, to provide much in demand freight-capacity. The Corsica Ferries vessel arrived in Cherbourg at lunchtime (Irish time) today, whereas Pelagos continues on the English Channel and is yet to transit the Strait of Dover (see: Irish Ferries to launch new service) before reaching Dunkirk. Credit: Rosslare Harbour-twitter

Two chartered ferries from the 'Med' for 'Brexit-bypass' roles serving rival operators, where relatively close to each other offshore of Rosslare Europort last night when bound for French ports, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Irish Ferries chartered ro-ro Mega Express Four of Corsica Ferries which Afloat observed in Dublin Bay in the late afternoon, was estimated to be offshore of Rosslare some three hours later.

This proved to be so as the Dublin-Cherbourg (weekend) serving Mega Express Four was tracked off the Wexford coast in the early evening, while almost parallel was DFDS Rosslare-Dunkirk newcomer, ro-pax Pelagos, chartered from La Méridionale.

The Marseille based operator having only acquired the ro-pax in 2019 from DFDS which operated the 114 freight trailer unit ferry with a maiden crossing from Dunkirk completed on Thursday. 

The debut of Pelagos was somewhat delayed as the ro-pax was meant to enter service on Tuesday, to directly replace Drotten, which too was on charter but only since late January. Swedish owners, Destination Gotland having as scheduled required that the ship return for Easter.

As for Pelagos, is of the prolific Visentini shipbuilder's early generation of ro-pax designed ferries that joins another ferry from the same Italian yard, Kerry which remains one of the original vessels that began the new Ireland-France route to Europe two days post-Brexit.

This is the first time these ports have been linked and the French port is the most eastern, compared to the Rosslare-Le Havre route which LD Lines had operated. 

Pelagos is now the third DFDS vessel operating the near 24 hour route. The final vessel of the trio is Visby, sister of Drotten, however DFDS announced that a fourth freight ferry is to enter service in early April to meet the boom in demand from freight hauliers.

When Ark Dania starts service in early April, the DFDS route will increase to 16 sailings per week to and from Dunkirk. The northern France port is situated close to the major markets of the BeNelux nations, the French capital and beyond to central Europe.

Ironically, Pelagos previously spent a career with DFDS as their Liverpool Seaways, when the Danish operator had a short spell of operations on the Irish Sea more than a decade ago. As the name of the ferry indicates, the ro-pax linked Merseyside (albeit Birkenhead) with Dublin Port, where a sister, Dublin Seaways also served until the route closed in early 2011. 

A third ferry from the Mediterranean, ro-ro ferry Blue Star 1 has just been chartered from Attica Group for Irish Ferries Rosslare-Pembroke route in April. This will see parent owners, ICG, redeploy the Ireland-Wales route cruiseferry Isle of Inishmore by launching on the Dover-Calais route in July.

Therefore, ICG's most notable move, will for the first time be able to offer customers as a single UK 'land-bridge' operator on the alternative service across the Strait of Dover and on the Irish Sea. 

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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