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Aran Island Ferries Celebrate 40th Year With Galway Chamber Cruise

9th September 2023
Aran Islands Ferries 40th. In addition to the Rossaveal route, they operate Ireland’s longest distance domestic ferry route served by Saoirse na Farraige as seen on its maiden crossing from Galway City.
Aran Islands Ferries 40th. In addition to the Rossaveal route, they operate Ireland’s longest distance domestic ferry route served by Saoirse na Farraige as seen on its maiden crossing from Galway City. Credit: Aran Island Ferries-twitter

Western seaboard operator, Aran Island Ferries with a five-strong fleet, hosted a Galway Chamber ‘Connect Series’ event last week.

The event took place during a cruise on Galway Bay which gave members of the Chamber to network while also enjoying a pleasurable excursion.

This season Aran Island Ferries celebrated its 40 year and the people who have contributed to its success with operating the Rossaveal-Aran Island’s routes, Ireland’s longest and largest year-round ferry firm owned by O’Brien family of An Cheathrú Rua, Connemara.

In 2020 they opened a Galway-Inis Mór route (last served by Naomh Eanna until 1988) served by Ireland’s biggest domestic ferry Saoirse na Farraige for 392 passengers. The 20 knot ferry takes a passage time of 90 minutes.

The O’Brien’s first sailed with passengers using a traditional Galway Hooker, An Tonaí in the 1970’s which was followed with the purchase of a passenger ferry, the Dún Aengus, with 48-seats in 1983.

Currently, Aran Island Ferries five ferries have a total passenger capacity of 1,400 operating the two routes across Galway Bay.

Galway Advertiser has more on the celebratory Chamber cruise.

Asides the Saoirse na Farraige, custom built by Cheoy Lee Shipyards, Hong Kong, the rest of the fleet comprise of Banrion na Farraige, Ceol na Farraige, Draoicht na Farraige and Glor na Farraige which in 2015 was chartered for tender duties off Dun Laoghaire for to cruise ship Royal Princess.

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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!