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A ferry service to Spain is to start today, which had been previously served by the Irish Continental Group (ICG) owned cruiseferry Pride of Bilbao, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Brittany Ferries 32,728 tonnes Cap Finistere will re-open the Portsmouth-Bilbao route following P&O Ferries closure last September. Since the route opened in 1993 the 37,583 tonnes Pride of Bilbao has been on charter to P&O, initially from her owners Viking Line. In the following year she was sold to the ICG group, a parent company of Irish Ferries.

The Cap Finistere has a 790 passenger / 500 vehicle capacity and the vessel will operate two round trips weekly with each crossing taking 24 hours. Interestingly an additional en-route call to Roscoff is scheduled on Sunday sailings bound for Bilbao which will take 33-hours. This is to facilitate a crew change, as the Cap Finistere does not operate on any of the company routes from France.

In 2009 the P&O service carried 180,000 passengers and 193,000 in 2008 but closed due to "unsustainable losses". There were 800 redundancies but some 150 staff jobs were secured through transfer. Click here for a previous posting. The company were in direct competition with Brittany Ferries existing two routes between Plymouth and Poole to Santander.

The Bilbao route brings the Brittany Ferries operations to five sailings weekly between the UK to Spain, two from Portsmouth to Santander and a single round-trip to Plymouth.

The Pride of Bilbao was sold late last year by ICG to the Baltic Sea based St. Peter Line at a profit of €9.4m. The vessel underwent refurbishment and was renamed Princess Anastasia and next month starts a new St. Petersburg-Stockholm service, with Russian bound sailings calling en route to
the Estonian capital of Tallinn. Click here for more details.

Pride of Bilbao's return to the Baltic is nearly full-circle as the 2,553 passenger / 600 vehicles vessel, built in 1986 as Olympia for Viking Line's also operated out of Stockholm to Helsinki, and at the time was one of the largest overnight passenger capacity ferries in the world.

Published in Ferry
In the same week that Irish Continental Line (ICG) Group released end of year figures for 2010, their subdidiary Irish Ferries recorded a near 8% rise in passenger volumes and an announcement of a 10 year deal to continue operating on their south Welsh route, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Irish Ferries will maintain running the Rosslare route to Pembroke Dock for the next decade in an agreement signed with the Milford Haven Port Authority. The Pembrokeshire port provides docking and terminal facilities and the decade long contract secures the employment of 60 terminal staff.

The St. Georges channel crossing carries over 300,000 passengers and 80,000 freight annually and is served by the 34,031grt Isle of Inishmore. The ro-pax can handle 2,200 passengers, 802 cars / 152 freight trailers and is scheduled to two daily round trips, on a route that take nearly five hours.

The 1997 Dutch built vessel was first launched onto the central corridor route between Dublin-Holyhead but was transferred to the southern service after the introduction of Ulysses in 2001.

Rosslare-Pembroke Dock sailings only began in 1980, firstly operated by the B+I Line which competed with rival operators Sealink / British Rail (now Stena Line) on services running out of Fishguard.

This route was well established having started operations in 1906 and in an era when the railway companies (in this case the Great Western Railway) developed and owned the ports plus the operation of shipping services on the Irish Sea.

Published in Ferry
St. Peter Line has agreed to purchase the Pride of Bilbao for €37.7m from Irish Continental Group (ICG) which has been on charter to P&O's UK-Spain route, writes Jehan Ashmore.
ICG will charter the 37,583 gross tonnes cruiseferry to St. Peter Line on a hire-purchase basis with instalments to be paid over six years, with the final payment and transfer of vessel ownership in 2016. The vessel is to undergo refurbishment and renamed Princess Anastasia before opening a new second route for St.Peter Line between St. Petersburg and Stockholm  in April 2011. The new twice weekly service will call via Tallinn, Estonia and will for the first time provide visa-free cruises from Sweden to the Russian Federation.

For the last 17 years the Pride of Bilbao has operated between Portsmouth and Bilbao under charter to P&O. Built in 1986, she was launched as Olympia for Viking Line between Stockholm and Helsinki, then the Baltic Sea ferry was one of the largest overnight passenger capacity ferries in the world. At 177 metres long the vessel can accommodate 2552-passengers, 600-vehicles and space for 77-trucks. She has a sister, the Mariella, which currently operates on Viking Line's Stockholm-Mariehamn–Helsinki service.

In 1993 the vessel was renamed Pride of Bilbao and launched a new service on the Bay of Biscay, under charter from her Scandinavian owners. The following year ICG purchased the Pride of Bilbao from Viking Line and she was re-registered to the Bahamas. The vessel was subsequently entered into a British bare-boat charter arrangement between P&O Ferries and ICG. Due to unsustainable losses the route closed on 28 September this year but rivals Brittany Ferries soon shortly announced they would reopen the route in Spring 2011.

Throughout the Pride of Bilbao's career under ICG (parent company of Irish Ferries), the cruiseferry has only once visited Ireland. In between Spanish sailings, she was sub-chartered for a three-day Christmas mini-cruise from Portsmouth to Dublin in 2004, where the Pride of Bilbao berthed at the ferryport close to the ICG headquarters.

Published in Ports & Shipping
Page 3 of 3

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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