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Northern Ireland’s New Passenger Ship Sets Sail off Antrim's Ballycastle

2nd April 2022
Officially launched by Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons and Councillor Richard Holmes, The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens for 2021/2022, also pictured are guests, and Charles Stewart and Dawn Hynes from Kintra Boat Tours in foreground.
Officially launched by Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons and Councillor Richard Holmes, The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens for 2021/2022, also pictured are guests, and Charles Stewart and Dawn Hynes from Kintra Boat Tours in foreground

Marking what it described as a “new dawn”, an Antrim company has launched the province’s largest sightseeing passenger ferry.

The new vessel Kintra II marks a £1 million investment by Kintra Boat Tours, and the creation of eight jobs.

The vessel is licensed to carry 84 passengers, and was commissioned in August 2020 from Blyth Catamarans.

It joins Kintra I, the company’s first vessel which provides sightseeing and wildlife tours along the Northern Irish coastline.

Experienced mariner Charles Stewart and business partner Dawn Hynes set up Kintra Boat Tours in March 2020, just as a pandemic took hold. After what Stewart describes as a “choppy start”, the company has benefited from the substantial increase in staycations.

“The North coast is one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and it’s been a long-held ambition to enable locals and tourists to view the incredible wildlife and scenery from sea,” Stewart said.

The vessel was launched on Friday in Ballycastle by the North’s Minister for the Economy, Gordon Lyons and Mayor of the Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Richard Holmes.

“Today marks a milestone for the local economy, our tourism offering and for our company,” Dawn Hynes said.

“ The addition of Kintra II will enable us to create new job roles locally, and also to more than double our capacity, which is especially important for the summer season,” she said.

Kintra Boat Tours sail all year round from Ballycastle along the North coast and Rathlin Island.

The company says its vessel skippers are “incredibly knowledgeable about the geography, history and the wildlife” along the coastline and on the L-shaped island with its puffin colony. All trips also have a wildlife guide onboard.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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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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