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#FerryNews - Completing a maiden high-speed craft (HSC) crossing on Irish Ferries Dublin-Holyhead route this morning is Dublin Swift, replacing a smaller craft that has served for almost two decades, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The Dublin Swift docked in Holyhead this morning just after 11.00. 

The newcomer takes over from HSC Jonathan Swift which has operated since 1999 on the core Irish Sea route. The car-carrying catamaran becomes the largest fast-ferry on the Irish Sea and has entered service in the shoulder season in advance of the busy high-season months on the Ireland-Wales link. 

Dublin Swift operates at 35 knots to maintain the same frequency of sailings with twice daily return crossings likewise to the replaced Jonathan Swift. ICG sold the fastferry to Spanish operators to serve a career in the Meditteranean linking the Balearics. 

Prior to introduction, Dublin Swift underwent a refurbishment programme in Belfast following a charter overseas, so to bring the HSC up to Irish Ferries standards for 820 passengers and space for 200 vehicles. Onboard facilities are located on one deck, compared to the double deck arrangment on Jonathan Swift. 

The facilities of Dublin Swift include a dedicated TV Snug, cafeteria, self-service restaurant and games area.

Passengers have a selection of spacious seating accommodation in the standard cabin, or plush reclining seats with views to sea, in-seat recharging points and complementary refreshments in the Club Class Lounge. This area of the fastferry is positioned at the bow. Free Wi-Fi is offered throughout.

The HSC brings increased capacity on the core Irish Sea route also operated by flagship Ulysses and ropax Epsilon.  

The 8,403 gross tonnage Dublin Swift, (formerly Westpac Express) was in 2016 acquired by ICG, parent company of Irish Ferries for $13.25 million. Built in 2001 by Austal Ships Pty to their in-house 101m Auto-Express design. The yard in Fremantle, western Australia is also where Jonathan Swift was custom built for ICG. 

Dublin Swift is also the only fast ferry operating between Ireland and Britain, though the Isle of Man is served by the Steam-Packet's fastferry Manannan on seasonal routes including the Dublin link.  

 

Published in Ferry

#FerryNews - Dublin Swift, the marketing name Irish Ferries use for Jonathan Swift which has been sold to Spanish operators, has been put to use again albeit as the new name given to a replacement high-speed craft, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The sucessor HSC, Westpac Express is to take on the name Dublin Swift at Harland & Wolff's Belfast Dry Dock, having entered the facility yesterday afternoon. The HSC had been on charter to the US Military Sealift Command since Irish Ferries parent Irish Continental Group (ICG) acquired the craft in June 2016. The craft had been flagged to the US but has changed to Cyprus. 

The vehicle carrying catamaran HSC built by Austal Ships Pty, Fremantle, western Australia, to their in-house 101m Auto-Express design was redelivered to ICG at the end of November 2017.

Afloat has monitored HSC Westpac Express since arrival in Belfast Port two months ago, having made a stopover call to Holyhead. Invariably, this involved berthing trials prior to taking up service with a scheduled introduction on the Dublin-Holyhead route in April.

On arrival in Belfast, the 2001 built HSC berthed at H&W's Ship Repair Quay adjacent to Belfast Dry Dock to undergo internal refurbishment and maintenance. Work continues to convert the HSC from military requirements (included armoured vehicles) to civilian use. This will enable a refurbishment programme to bring the craft up to Irish Ferries standards.

When Dublin Swift enters service next month, the HSC will bring increased capacity on the Dublin-Holyhead route in partnership with Ulysses. The flagship which is also Cypriot flagged operates with the chartered-in ropax Epsilon which provides more freight-orientated capacity.

The charter of Epsilon will expire in November this year, though ICG has two further one-year options on the Italian flagged 'no-frills' marketed ferry which also serves at weekends on Dublin-Cherbourg round-trips.

Epsilon had previously occupied Belfast Dry Dock for refit. On completion, the ropax resumed service last month albeit with a delayed sailing, firstly on the France route. This was followed by weekday operated sailings on the Wales route.

Jonathan Swift in 1999, became the first fast-craft ferry for Irish Ferries. The custom-built HSC having made the delivery voyage via the Suez Canal from the same Austal yard but based on their 86m Auto-Express design. Due to the marketing name (painted on the hull: see story) of the craft for almost the past two decades, the fastferry has also became known as the 'Swifty'.

In more recent years, HSC Jonathan Swift, became the last fast-ferry remaining on Ireland-UK services, with exception albeit of seasonal operated sailings linking the Isle of Man. It was during the 1990's that the heyday of fast-ferries made their presence on the Irish Sea, in particular services through Belfast.

Dublin Swift's most direct rival came in the form of the High Speed Sea-Service (HSS) Stena Explorer until the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead route closed with the final season ending in 2014.

The move by Stena Line to abandon the route led to the operator consolidating existing services on the Dublin-Holyhead route that began in 1995. Currently, sailings are by Stena Superfast X while routemate, Stena Adventurer is also in dry-dock for annual refit overhaul.  Taking on relief duties is ropax Stena Horizon.

Published in Ferry

#Super&Swift- Irish Ferries HSC (high-speed craft) Jonathan Swift is currently the only such vessel operating on the Irish Sea, since the HSS Stena Explorer was withdrawn from service last September, writes Jehan Ashmore.

As Easter approaches, the competition for market-share on the Dublin-Holyhead route rises, with Stena Line set to launch Superfast X this month on the core Irish Sea route alongside Stena Adventurer.

Rivals, Irish Ferries fast-ferry is marketed as the Dublin 'Swift' which is partnered by Ulysses. In addition during weekdays sailings are provided by ro-pax Epsilon.

Stena Line, last month officially confirmed the permanent closure of the Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead with no service by the HSS Stena Explorer in 2015.

This uniquely positions Irish Ferries Jonathan Swift as the only Irish Sea fast-ferry until P&O Ferries resume the Express fast-craft operated Larne-Troon seasonal route on 31st March.

Also joining this fast-ferry league will be the Isle of Man Steam Packet's Manannan which also reopens a seasonal service. Firstly, the Liverpool-Douglas route on 26th March.

Returning to Stena Line, Superfast X boasts 10 decks and a 1,200 passenger capacity ferry fresh from a recent major refit that took three months to complete in Poland.

Both passenger motorists and freight vehicle deck capacity will be almost 2kms long. High sided freight-trailers of up to 4.65 metres will also be accommodated.

Upon entry of Superfast X, she will directly replace the smaller Nordica which heads off for a new career on the Strait of Dover.

Published in Ferry

#CancelledSailings – Met Eireann's marine weather foreceast currently has an 'orange' status warning of a gale in effect which has caused some cancellation of ferry sailings on the Irish Sea. In addition, the weather service has issued a 'yellow' warning for small craft. 

The weather has caused cancellation of today's Irish Ferries high-speed craft Jonathan Swift operated sailings on the Dublin-Holyhead route. Passengers, however will be transferred to Ulysses conventional ferry sailings which continue to operate as normal. For latest information, click HERE.

Due to adverse weather conditions the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co.'s route between Douglas and Heysham have also led to cancelled sailings operated by the ro-pax ferry Ben-My-Chree. Todays 14.15 sailing from Douglas has been cancelled.

In addition further possible disruption may arise on the UK-Isle of Man link, on sailings later today and for tomorrow (Tuesday, 24 February), to consult latest information updates, click HERE.

Travellers are advised to check other ferry operators (listed below) for the latest sailing information updates.

Stena Line

P&O Ferries

For details of Met Eireann's coastal reports and conditions for sea crossing's forecast visit this LINK.

Published in Ferry

#DublinSwift – The are currently no fast-ferries operating at all on the Irish Sea, not due to bad weather, but for the annual refit of Jonathan Swift, the only such craft running throughout the year, on Irish Ferries Dublin-Holyhead route, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Irish Ferries which markets the fast-craft as the Dublin 'Swift' is currently undergoing maintenance at the Cammell Laird dry-dock facility, Birkenhead. Her brief absence from the route started during the week, however she to resume service on Tuesday 5 February with the 08:45 sailing from Dublin Port.

Also berthed in Birkenhead, is Irish Ferries cruiseferry Isle of Inishmore, which too is undergoing annual refit. As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the flagship Ulysses, the largest ferry on the Irish Sea, was also refitted at the same facility recently, as she returned earlier this week to the Dublin-Holyhead service.

So where are the rest of the fast-ferries?...well, there's three to be found in 'hibernation' mode. Firstly, facing opposite Birkenhead, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's fast-ferry Manannan is laying over for the winter in Liverpool docks, until required to operate routes to Douglas in the Spring.

Stena Line's HSS Stena Explorer is in lay-up at her berth in the inner harbour in Holyhead, where she is to remain until resuming her seasonal-only service starting on 22 March and running through the peak-season until September.

Finally the third fast-ferry, P&O's Express is berthed alongside Donegall Quay, Belfast, though this is not where she operates from, but on the seasonal Larne-Troon service.

Also to be found in Belfast is the laid-up HSS Stena Voyager, one of a trio of HSS 1500 series built in Finland. She became redundant more than a year ago following change of Scottish ferryport from Stranraer to Cairnryan, from where a pair of 'Superfast' ferries operate the North Channel route to Belfast.

Published in Ferry

#FERRY DISRUPTION – Due to adverse weather conditions at sea, 'all' of Irish Ferries fast-craft sailings on the Dublin-Holyhead route operated by the Jonathan Swift are cancelled for tomorrow (Sunday 30 December).

Passenger booked on the cancelled 'Swift' fast-craft sailings will be transferred to alternative cruiseferry sailings served by Ulysses and Isle of Inishmore.

To keep up to date with the latest sailing schedule plus pre-recorded contact service and further information click HERE or by contacting 0818300400 in Ireland / 08717300400 in the UK. In addition check-in times are also given, which vary depending on what mode of transport is been used.

For details on other ferry operators with latest sailing information visit: www.aaireland.ie/AA/AA-Roadwatch/Ferry.aspx

 

Published in Ferry

#FERRY BOOST - Irish Ferries French route cruiseferry Oscar Wilde as previously reported is to undergo its annual dry-dock maintenance next month, however, she is to operate Christmas and New Year sailings between Rosslare-Pembroke Dock, writes Jehan Ashmore.

In mid-October Afloat.ie reported that the Welsh route cruiseferry Isle of Inishmore is to transfer to Dublin-Holyhead route to boost capacity over the busy festive season.

Each of Isle of Inishmore's sailings will provide space for an additional 2,200 passengers and more than 850 cars. She will join the central corridor route's cruiseferry Ulysses and fast-ferry Jonathan Swift otherwise marketed as the Dublin Swift. For sailing schedules including separate panel for sailings served by Isle of Inishmore click this LINK.

Irish Sea rivals Stena Line are to bring back HSS fast-craft Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead sailings for 12 days over the festive and New Year period, for schedule click HERE. In addition Stena also operate year-round Dublin-Holyhead sailings using two conventional ferries marketed as Superferries.

Published in Ferry

#FERRY NEWS - With winds of up to 100mph, Scottish ferry sailings on the North Channel routes from Northern Ireland, have been affected with two cancellations on Stena's Belfast-Cairnryan services, according to Channel 4 News.

P&O had no reported cancellations on its Irish Sea routes but is advising passengers to check in normally and expect delays. In addition some Scottish domestic ferry services were cancelled on some routes operated by Caledonian MacBrayne, while other services were disrupted.

To read more about the weather disruption across the Scottish central belt remains which remains on-high alert for storms while Northern Ireland and the north of England are subject to a severe weather warning click HERE. For the latest weather visit www.metoffice.gov.uk/

Sailing updates from Stena Line's Belfast-Cairnryan service can be viewed by clicking HERE and for information on delays on Belfast-Liverpool service click HERE. For sailing updates on routes operated by P&O click this LINK.

For the rest of the Irish Sea ferry routes, including those operated by Stena Line and Irish Ferries it would be also advisable to check each route from the operator's websites.

Irish Ferries Dublin Swift fast-ferry sailings to and from Holyhead have been cancelled, though cruiseferry sailings remain operating. To keep updated visit the 24hrs sailing update posted on the homepage of www.irishferries.com and for Irish weather coverage by visiting www.met.ie

Published in Ferry
P&O Ferries seasonally-only operated fast-ferry sailings between Larne-Cairnryan and also to Troon closed yesterday, leaving only two fast-ferries running Irish Sea cross-channel routes this winter, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The fast-ferry Express (1998/5,902grt) which was first introduced on P&O Ferries North Channel routes, which will continue to be operated year-round using conventional tonnage. On the route to Cairnryan, a pair of conventional ferries maintain sailings and a freight-only ferry serves Troon.

As for the remaining winter-serving fast-ferries they are Stena Line's HSS Stena Voyager (1996/ 19,638grt) between Belfast-Stranraer, in tandem with conventional ferries. Next month this route will close as the Scottish terminal relocates to a new ferryport nearby at (Loch Ryan Port) Cairnryan.

In addition two sister-ferries, which are undergoing modifications and an upgrade for their two-year charter on the North Channel, will directly replace the two-hour passage times it takes for the HSS fast-ferry and the ferries Stena Caledonia and Stena Navigator which take 2hrs 50 minutes.

With the introduction of the new tonnage to the Belfast-Cairnryan route, sailings times will be reduced to 2hrs 15mins. Ironically the new ferries which albeit will be the largest to serve on any North Channel route will actually be some 15 minutes slower on the newer-shorter distance route compared to the HSS fast-ferry operated Belfast-Stranraer sailings.

The second fast-ferry service is operated on Irish Ferries Dublin-Holyhead route using Jonathan Swift (1999/5,989grt) which is marketed as the Dublin 'Swift'. She runs year-round in addition to the cruiseferry Ulysses.

Also operating fast-ferry craft is the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's Manannan (1998/5,029grt) but this is on the none cross-channel route between Douglas and Liverpool.

Published in Ferry
With the recent closure of Stena Line fast-ferry services from Dun Laoghaire and Rosslare, this leaves just four such services operating this winter between Ireland and Britain. By November only half of these services will be running on routes out of Dublin and Larne, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Currently three of these four services are employed on North Channel routes. P&O Ferries operate their fast-craft Express (1998/5,902 grt) on the one-hour route to Cairnryan which is also served by conventional ferry sisters that take two-hours. Since March the fast-ferry also joined the freight-ferry on the Troon route for the start of seasonal summer sailings which are to end on 3rd October.

The third service between Belfast-Stranraer is in the hands of rivals Stena Line which maintain the HSS Stena Voyager (1996/19,638 grt) on sailings but only to around mid-November. She will be replaced by conventional sister-ships which will be introduced on the North Channel's newest port when services switch from Stranraer to a new terminal close to Cairnryan.

Finally the fourth fast-ferry is Irish Ferries marketed 'Dublin Swift' service which runs on the Dublin-Holyhead route served by Jonathan Swift (1999/5,989 grt). The craft built by Austal in Fremantle, operates alongside the conventional cruise-ferry Ulysses.

Stena Line's decision to terminate HSS Stena Explorer sailings between Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead this day last week follows fast-ferry Stena Lynx III's end-of-season Rosslare-Fishguard sailings earlier this month.

From next year, Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead sailings are to be seasonal-only and according to Stena Line they hope to resume fast-ferry sailings in April or May though no exact date has been set. Unlike the central corridor route which was entirely dependent on HSS operations, the Rosslare-Fishguard route remains operating year-round with the conventional ferry Stena Europe.

As a result of the discontinued fast-ferries, the HSS Stena Explorer is now spending a lay-up period in the Welsh port for the winter. The smaller Stena Lynx III is also 'wintering' but in on the opposite side of the Irish Sea in Dun Laoghaire, where the vessel has done so in previous years.

The lay-up of both fast-ferries in Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead is ironic considering that neither ports' are connected by the very craft that used to share sailing rosters in recent years. In addition the wintering of these catamaran craft is the first time that this has occurred since the pioneering Stena Sea Lynx fast-ferry launched such sailings in 1993.

This first 'Lynx' provided seasonal sailings on the route with conventional car-ferry Stena Hibernia, the former St. Columba, custom-built in 1977 for Sealink /British Rail. She was given a second name under Stena ownership, the Stena Adventurer and remained on the 57 nautical-mile route until replaced in 1996 by the year-round operated HSS Stena Explorer.

Apart from cross-channel fast-ferry services, the Isle of Man is served by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. Ltd's routes linking the islands capital Douglas with Belfast, Dublin, Heysham and Liverpool (Birkenhead) in the winter. These routes include seasonal services which are operated by a combination of conventional tonnage using Ben-My-Chree and fast-ferry Manannan (1998/5,089grt), a former US Navy vessel, to read more click HERE. For sailing schedules, vessel type deployed on route and for fares click HERE.

Published in Ferry

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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