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First DFDS Freight Ferry for New Rosslare Europort-Dunkirk (France) Route Makes Berthing Trials

30th December 2020
Rosslare Europort and hauliers alike welcomed the first arrival of the DFDS owned Optima Seaways this morning so to enable berthing trials prior to the launch of a new direct ro-ro freight-only route to Dunkirk, France on mainland continental Europe. This new 'Brexit-buster' service will avoid the UK Land-Bridge. AFLOAT also adds the direct Ireland-France route will be the first ever ro-ro route to transit straight through the entire English Channel as the French port is located on the North Sea and is east of Calais from where DFDS operate an existing service to Dover along with Dunkirk-Dover. Rosslare Europort and hauliers alike welcomed the first arrival of the DFDS owned Optima Seaways this morning so to enable berthing trials prior to the launch of a new direct ro-ro freight-only route to Dunkirk, France on mainland continental Europe. This new 'Brexit-buster' service will avoid the UK Land-Bridge. AFLOAT also adds the direct Ireland-France route will be the first ever ro-ro route to transit straight through the entire English Channel as the French port is located on the North Sea and is east of Calais from where DFDS operate an existing service to Dover along with Dunkirk-Dover. Credit: Rosslare Europort-twitter

Rosslare Europort welcomed the first of three ro-ro freight-ferries, that DFDS will operate on the eagerly awaited new direct route to Dunkirk (Dunkerque) in northern France thus avoiding the UK's Brexit Land-bridge, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Afloat tracked the Italian 'Visentini' shipyard built Optima Seaways owned by DFDS which departed the French port on Monday evening before berthing in Rosslare Europort this morning.

The inaugural freight sailing is scheduled to take place this Saturday, 2nd January with the departure from the south-east Irish port to mainland continental Europe.

The new route will enable Irish hauliers and other freight customers to keep their vital trade transported within the EU and avoid the customs formalities imposed by Brexit and associated potential delays.

DFDS will run 6 weekly departures from each port, either in the afternoon or evening, with a crossing time of just under 24 hours. To maintain such an intensive schedule the Danish operator has chartered in an additional pair of ships and crews, they are the Kerry, another Visentini built ropax (same design of Optima Seaways) and the larger passenger capacity ferry, Visby which will serve in a freight-only mode.

The DFDS vessel along with the chartered ferries have each a capacity for up to 120 trucks and trailers plus drivers. Accommodation for drivers will be based on individual COVID-19 safe cabins during the crossing of just under a day long in duration.

Another bonus for the Wexford port will be the launch of another 'Brexit-buster' service when Brittany Ferries further consolidates its presence in the opening of a combined freight and passenger 'no-frills' ferry service to Cherbourg on 22nd March. On the next day their Cork-Roscoff 'seasonal' route resumes to Brittany. 

As for Brittany Ferries new Ireland-France service to Normandy using the Visentini ropax Connemara, this will be in competition with Stena Line's service also serving the port at the tip of the Contentin Peninsula. They operate the similiar Stena Horizon, once again another ropax series from the prolific Visentini shipyard. In addition due to a surge in demand, freighter Stena Foreteller began an earlier than scheduled service prior to a planned 4th January start.

Returning to the DFDS new Ireland-France route, is the deployment of mixed vessel types involving a pair of more freight orientated vessels (ropax) limited to around 300 passengers and 160 cars approx. This compared to the larger 1,500 passenger/500 car ferry capacity Visby which as mentioned beforehand (likewise of the ropax's) will be carrying only trucks and drivers.

Perhaps, the chartering of the Visby from Swedish based operator Destination Gotland is just a short term measure? This vessel however had previously served a short sea crossing to the Baltic Sea island of Gotland which took only 3 hours and 15 minutes. Or will DFDS consider opening a 'full' ferry service with a suitable overnight ferry for holidaymakers during the high-season? This would facilitate the Ireland-BeNeLux nations link and Germany in addition towards central Europe.

Noting Brittany Ferries earlier this year opened the new Rosslare-Bilbao route to northern Spain. The route compared to the DFDS operation has a longer crossing time of 28 hours plus when traveling across the Bay of Biscay.

Rosslare Harbour has had a history of pioneering new direct ro-ro routes to mainland Europe, beginning firstly in 1968 by the Irish Shipping Ltd (ISL) route to Le Havre launched by a pair of Normandy Ferries, one each from two other shipping companies in a troika venture until they pulled out four years later. After an absence of the 1972 season, two Scandinavian companies joined ISL to form the following year the ferry division of Irish Continental Line (ICL).

ICL was a passenger subsidiary of the state-owned Irish Shipping Ltd, however the cargoship side went into liquidation in 1984, however ICL survived and would later evolve to become Irish Ferries, whose parent company is the Irish Continental Group (ICG). The ferry firm currently operates from Rosslare but only to the Welsh port of Pembroke in the UK while Stena serve Fishguard also in Pembrokeshire.

As for Irish Ferries services to France, in recent years the operator abandoned the Wexford port and relocated to Dublin Port from where Cherbourg is still served but no longer does the operator run the Rosslare route to Roscoff.

The route between the Irish capital and Cherbourg is operated by yet another variant of a Visentini ropax in the form of the chartered Epsilon. In addition the cruiseferry W.B. Yeats takes over the role of the ropax in May and for the summer season.

Published in Rosslare Europort, Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

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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About Rosslare Europort

2021 sees Rosslare Europort hitting a new record with a total of 36 shipping services a week operating from the port making it one of the premier Irish ports serving the European Continent. Rosslare Europort is a gateway to Europe for the freight and tourist industries. It is strategically located on the sunny south-east coast of Ireland.

Rosslare is within a 90-minute driving radius of major Irish cities; Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Rosslare Europort is a RoRo, RoPax, offshore and bulk port with three RoRo berths with a two-tier linkspan, we also have a dedicated offshore bulk berth.

Exports in Rosslare Europort comprise mainly of fresh products, food, pharmaceuticals, steel, timber and building supplies. While imports are largely in the form of consumer goods such as clothes, furniture, food, trade vehicles, and electronics.

The entire Europort is bar-swept to 7.2 meters, allowing unrestricted access to vessels with draughts up to 6.5 metres. Rosslare Europort offers a comprehensive service including mooring, stevedoring and passenger-car check-in for RoRo shipping lines. It also provides facilities for offshore, dry bulk and general cargo.

The port currently has twice-daily round services to the UK and direct services to the continent each day. Rosslare Europort has a fleet of Tugmasters service, fork-lift trucks, tractors and other handling equipment to cater for non-standard RoRo freight.

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