#EntersService – The new custom-built car ferry Spirit of Rathlin has finally entered service with a first scheduled sailing today on the Rathlin Island link with Ballycastle on the Antrim mainland, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Spirit of Rathlin built by Arklow Marine Services at cost of £2.8m entered the route which caters for 6 vehicles and 140 passengers. The 28m long newbuild directly replaced the ageing Canna which performed a final crossing last night concluding two decades of loyal service.
The introduction of Spirit of Rathlin is based on a 10 year contract to Rathlin Ferry Co. This was awared to the ferry company following a tender process from Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure (dfi) that funded the ferry.
Spirit of Rathlin is a boost to islanders and tourists alike as the new ferry offers better accommodation in the form of a saloon lounge area (seating 42) on the main deck. On the above decks 1 and 2, there is additional seating outside to take in the scenic views across Rathlin Sound.
In terms of freight he ‘Spirit’ will have the ability to convey an articulated truck and the newcomer will not be alone as the is also the passenger-only fastcraft Rathlin Express.
Prior to today’s opening, as previously reported on Afloat the new ferry had undergone further works at Mooney Boats, Killybegs. The work involved the use of the Donegal yard's syncro-lift.
In recent months, essential crew training was carried out before the Spirit of Rathlin was permitted a MCA certification. Also improvements to berthing infrastructure had to be completed in Ballycastle Harbour to accommodate the new ferry.