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Arrow Heads to Port of Larne After Manx Freight Charter Stint During Storm Arwen

1st December 2021
Afloat tracked the freight ro-ro ferry MV Arrow to the Port of Larne, having previously worked on charter duties for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co which sought additional freight capacity prompted by Storm Arwen over the weekend. Above Arrow sets off into the Irish Sea from Douglas Harbour during blustery seas as captured in this scene several years ago. Afloat tracked the freight ro-ro ferry MV Arrow to the Port of Larne, having previously worked on charter duties for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co which sought additional freight capacity prompted by Storm Arwen over the weekend. Above Arrow sets off into the Irish Sea from Douglas Harbour during blustery seas as captured in this scene several years ago. Credit: Jehan Ashmore

Afloat tracked yesterday Irish Sea freight ferry MV Arrow to the Port of Larne, having departed Douglas Harbour on Sunday, however the crossing was separate to any requirements of the Isle of Man Steam Packet, writes Jehan Ashmore.

According to a spokesperson on behalf of the IOMSPCo, the chartered in ro-ro vessel MV Arrow was brought to Manx waters to assist with additional freight prompted by adverse weather conditions over the weekend. The bad weather been in the form of Storm Arwen.

Prior to Arrow's arrival at the Co. Antrim ferry port (see Brexit Boost story) the freighter carried out duties for the Steam Packet's main route from Heysham to Douglas. This took place (in the early hours) of Sunday morning to assist with freight demand using the vessel's 1,057 lane metres of freight, which equates to approximately 65-trailer units.

As the Steam Packet website also cited, the charter was also due to disrupted sailings at the weekend with Friday's Ben-my-Chree (conventional ferry) sailings to Heysham which were cancelled for the same reason.

It is almost a decade since Seatruck Ferries placed Arrow into a long-term charter agreement with the IOMSPCo as an additional support vessel for freight or as an emergency replacement vessel. More recently the ship which is now owned by investment bank Fortress, continues however to retain a link with Seatruck Ferries which provides crewing and management.

In addition, the Arrow's routine back-up role took hold of such circumstances by providing transport of essential food and goods for islanders. Also the re-deployment of the freighter released more ferry vehicle deck space for motoring passengers affected by the weather disruption once ceded.

Following discharge of freight traffic at the Manx capital, Arrow set off late in the morning of last Sunday and arrived at the Port of Larne some seven hours later.

Arrow usually when not operating on short-term charters to other companies goes into lay-over mode in Larne by berthing at the Continental Quay and without impacting other users. The port's relative proximity permits a short passage time between Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. 

In the meantime, Arrow currently remains in Larne where P&O Ferries runs the shortest and fastest crossing to Scotland on the North Channel route that takes just 2 hours. To enable 12 departures a day, ropax pair European Causeway and half-sister European Highlander operate the link.

This route is in competition with Stena Line though out of Belfast Harbour on a slighty longer passage time of 2 hours 15 minutes and served by Superfast's VI and VII respectively.

Whereas, Seatruck, the Irish Sea's only dedicated freight operator this year celebrated its 25th anniversary of operations having revived Merchant Ferries Warrenpoint-Heysham route in 1996 with the newcomer's first crossing from Carlingford Lough was undertaken by Bolero.

This vessel was chartered in on the Co. Down-Lancashire link and what stemmed from this service, steadily grew and led to an expansion of routes across 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!