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B&I Line's 'Last' Leinster Ends With Canadian Operator As Tenders Called for Dismantling

2nd April 2021
Before Blue Star 1 enters Rosslare Europort-Pembroke Dock route while on charter to Irish Ferries, a precedessor on the Ireland-Wales route (until 1996) Isle of Inishmore/Inishturk, for the past 24 years served in Canadian east coast icy waters as Madeleine, (above) has been withdrawn serving a French speaking region and is to be dismantled. The ferry, originally B&I Line's 'last' Leinster built 1981 at Verolme Cork Dockyard (VCD) along with elder sister Connacht, which after Brittany Ferries service as Duchesse Anne, remains as Dubrovnik serving in the Adriatic. Another former Brittany Ferries ship, Duc de Normandie, made a ('once-off) Roscoff-Cork round trip in 1992 as Afloat previously reflected, in January went for scrapping. Before Blue Star 1 enters Rosslare Europort-Pembroke Dock route while on charter to Irish Ferries, a precedessor on the Ireland-Wales route (until 1996) Isle of Inishmore/Inishturk, for the past 24 years served in Canadian east coast icy waters as Madeleine, (above) has been withdrawn serving a French speaking region and is to be dismantled. The ferry, originally B&I Line's 'last' Leinster built 1981 at Verolme Cork Dockyard (VCD) along with elder sister Connacht, which after Brittany Ferries service as Duchesse Anne, remains as Dubrovnik serving in the Adriatic. Another former Brittany Ferries ship, Duc de Normandie, made a ('once-off) Roscoff-Cork round trip in 1992 as Afloat previously reflected, in January went for scrapping. Credit: CTMA-twitter

B&I Line's 'last' Leinster, the fourth and final passenger ship to carry the famous Irish 'province' themed name, and the last ever Irish built cross-channel car ferry, has ended a career in Canada's east coast, writes Jehan Ashmore.

For almost the past 24 years, the former Leinster, renamed Madeleine had served Coopérative de Transport Maritime et Aérien (C.T.M.A) but branded as C.T.M.A. Traverseire, operating between Souris, Prince Edward Island and Cap-aux-Meules-Souris of the Magdalen Islands.

Madeleine had ran on the Canadian icy-waters of this French speaking region of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, where shipping pass to enter the St. Lawrence River to reach Montreal.

On the 17th March, an appropriate date given the Irish connection!, as Madeleine made a final departure from the island. According to CTMA, Transport Canada is calling for tenders to dismantle the veteran vessel of four decades.

Afloat today tracked the Madeleine berthed at the port of Souri.

CTMA have acquired a replacement ferry from Spanish operator, Naviera Armas, Villa de Tero, which had been in the Canary Islands from where the Madeleine crew were dispatched to make the delivery voyage across the Altantic.

The newcomer is that of the abandoned newbuild hull for Viking Line, of their Viking ADCC, though the renamed Madeleine II, is now in its new home-waters though has yet to enter service.

The historic B+I Line established in 1836 and which the Irish Government acquired in 1965, was in a bad state in 1992 when sold into private ownership to Irish Continental Group (ICG), parent company of Irish Ferries.

The takeover of the fleet consisted of the company's owned Leinster along with the Wicklow, a lo-lo containership. In addition, there was the chartered Irish flagged Munster (introduced in 1990) and a B+I crew on the P&O ro-ro freight ferry Bison.

Following the Connacht (6,812grt) built in 1978 by Verolme Cork Dockyard (V.C.D.), B+I Line returned to the shipyard in Rushbrooke near Cobh, for a sister, the Leinster (6,808grt) which entered service in 1981 for the Dublin-Liverpool route.

Connacht as the leadship of the pair designed by Patrick Martin of VCD, a year later first launched onto the Cork-Swansea route (as referred in Brittany Ferries story).

What makes Leinster signifiant in Irish maritime shipbuilding history, is that the 1,500 passenger/326 car capacity ferry was the last ordered by B+I Line. Also the ferry would mark another maritime milestone as the finel cross-channel ro-ro ferry launched in an Irish shipyard.

Asides operating the Dublin-Liverpool link, Leinster and Connacht were designed to enter Liverpool Docks through the Waterloo Lock, which meant a beam of only 18.50m.

The Liffey-Merseyside route however closed in 1988 in favour of B+I serving just the short-sea routes of Dublin-Holyhead and Rosslare-Pembroke Dock.

The move from the overnight longer route was to compete on a more level basis with rivals, Sealink British Ferries, predecessor to Stena Line.

The Leinster under Irish Ferries was renamed Isle of Inishmore, serving on both the short-sea routes of Dublin-Holyhead and Rosslare-Pembroke Dock.

The latter route is where the ferry was renamed briefly Isle of Inishturk, this was to enable to free up the name for ICG's second custom built cruiseferry, Isle of Inishmore, which in June is to transfer to Irish Ferries new service of Dover-Calais.

Taking its direct replacement is the chartered Blue Star 1, and is currently in the Mediterranean bound for the Wexford port with an arrival next Monday.

While another former Irish Ferries ship, the French routes serving Saint Patrick II, also served as ferry for the same Canada operator as their C.T.M.A. Vancancier.

In recent years, the former Viking Line Aurella dating to 1973, was transferred to run cruises on the St. Lawrence River based out of Montreal to the Magdalen Islands, under a cruise division, Croisieres CTMA.

This season is cancelled due to Covid19, however they wish to return to cruises in 2022.

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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