Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Largest Domestic Passenger Ferry to Set Sail as Services Emerge from Lockdown

11th May 2021
Ferries and cruise boats are sailing out of lockdown around Ireland, among them the restored direct service of the Galway City-Aran Islands (Inis Mór) route. Above in the centre, AFLOAT's adds is the newbuild fast-passenger ferry, Saoirse na Farraige, which will launch the route across Galway Bay on 4 June. Ferries and cruise boats are sailing out of lockdown around Ireland, among them the restored direct service of the Galway City-Aran Islands (Inis Mór) route. Above in the centre, AFLOAT's adds is the newbuild fast-passenger ferry, Saoirse na Farraige, which will launch the route across Galway Bay on 4 June. Credit: Aran Island Ferries-twitter

The largest domestic passenger ferry is among the vessels setting sail around the country as restrictions ease.

Aran Island Ferries’ 400-seater Saoirse na Farraige will launch with a new Galway (Harbour) City to Inis Mór route on June 4, two days after holiday accommodation is permitted to reopen in Ireland.

The first route to link city and islands directly since 2005, (see story) it will also take in the Cliffs of Moher on return, with prices from €49/€25.

“Saoirse na Farraige means Freedom of the Sea and in light of the recent pandemic we’re delighted to now set this vessel free on Galway Bay for what will be a memorable cruise and visit to Inis Mór, the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher in complete luxury and safety,” said Susan O’Brien, Director of Aran Island Ferries.

The 40m (Asian built) ferry arrived late last year from the Cheoy Lee Shipyards of Hong Kong. Leather seating, charging points and plasma screens are among the creature comforts for passengers, and an onboard bar stands ready to serve when restrictions permit.

More from, on this notable restored domestic service, which Afloat adds will be the most longest in distance of any island serving routes. 

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

Email The Author

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. 

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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!