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Displaying items by tag: One & Only Visit

#FrenchDucVisit – On this date a quarter of a century ago, a Brittany Ferries ship made a once-only visit to Cork, a unique event in Irish ferry terms which was personally observed, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 1500 passenger/350 vehicle ferry Duc de Normandie was seen sailing into Cork Harbour on 28 March 1992, having sailed overnight from Roscoff, Brittany. To add to the unique occasion the arrival of the business-like yet handsome looking ferry was noted when entering the neck of the lower harbour. This was noted from the elevated site of the former Fort Camden beyond Crosshaven.

The site now officially named Fort Meagher also affords views to its counterpart Fort Carlisle (Fort Davis) on the opposite side of the harbour. Further south along that side of the coast is the iconic landmark of Roches Point Lighthouse.

As an avid ferry enthusiast, the course of the Duc de Normandie was keenly traced as the former Dutch ferry (Prinses Beatrix) gently weaved further into the expanse of the natural harbour, yet a route that is dictated by the channel beneath. By the time the ferry was between Whitegate Oil Jetty and Spike Island, it was decided to depart this vantage point and head to Ringaskiddy Ferry Terminal.

Upon arrival in Ringaskiddy, the distinctive sound of 'live' Breton traditional musical was clearly heard within the grounds of the ferry terminal. Reasons as to why soon transpired as a wedding celebration was underway. It was nice to see such an occasion and how the seasonal ferry link gave an example in connecting Celtic traditions between the Irish and Bretons.

It should however be noted that this now historic visit by Duc de Normandie, which was made early into the seasonal service of 1992 had followed the opening sailing. This saw the deployment of a chartered but former Brittany Ferries ship, Cornouailles.

This would not be a conducive return to Cork of the ferry renamed Havelet of British Channel Island Ferries. Following a late arrival, Havelet set off on the return crossing to Roscoff but a freak wave struck the Norwegian custom-built ferry.

The incident caused a serious listing and damage on the vehicle decks. This led to the Havelet having to turn around and head back to Cork for repairs. Two days after the terminated sailing the ferry departed after repairs, however this caused a row with the Department of the Marine who claimed that enquires into the incident were not completed.

To replace Havelet on the Ireland-France service this led to this first and only visit of the Duc de Normandie, however it would be Quiberon that would take over the shoulder months that season. The Quiberon been no stranger to the continental route having entered service in 1982 on a route that was established almost four decades ago in 1978 by the Armorique.

As for the high-season summer months of 1992, they were carried out by the then flagship Bretagne. The first custom built 'cruiseferry' for Brittany Ferries entered service in 1989. She was designed to operate Spanish and English Channel routes in addition to serve the seasonal duties of the Irish route.

There have been other once-off callers from the Brittany Ferries fleet but they were deployed during the earlier years of the route. Asides Duc de Normandie, the most recent once-off caller was Bretagne albeit having served the route until 2004, the cruiseferry made a return visit to Cork two years later.

On that occasion, a trip was made to see the Bretagne make an arrival and departure in October 2006. The reason was that routine flagship, Pont-Aven was on charter for the Route du Rhum yacht event.

Pont-Aven as Afloat recently reported was deployed on St. Malo-Portsmouth duties in tandem with routine ship, Bretagne. The Cork-Roscoff regular, Pont-Aven is scheduled to resume the seassonal service this week.

The first sailing from France departs Roscoff on Friday, 31 March and the corresponding return sailing from Ireland departs on Saturday, 1 April. 

Published in Cork Harbour

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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