As first revealed by Shipping Italy, the Ro-Pax ferry EPSILON is set to change hands. The ship is currently owned by Caronte & Tourist and on charter to Irish Ferries. EPSILON serves the Dublin – Holyhead and Dublin – Cherbourg routes.
The buyer is said to be the Polish shipping company Euroafrica Shipping, owned by the Cyprus registered Hass Holding. The purchase price is reportedly €50 million. This is rather more than the €34 million Caronte & Tourist are said to have paid when they bought the ship from a Visentini-related company in 2019. This reflects the current demand for Ro-pax tonnage.
The vessel is expected to leave the Irish Ferries fleet at the end of her current charter period, which is believed to be November 2022. Shipping Italy suggests that Irish Ferries may have an option to extend EPSILON ‘s charter until next March. However, such options in charter agreements are often by mutual agreement so industry information suggesting a November end to the charter may still be possible.
Reliable industry circles suggest that the new owner has already found a new charter for the ship.
Stena Line has been mentioned and with it said that the company is looking for a second permanent Ro-pax ferry to join the STENA HORIZON on the Rosslare – Cherbourg route, this may well prove to be reliable.
The 2012-built EPSILON originally joined Irish Ferries in late 2013 on a sub-charter from Caronte & Tourist. Following the Italian company’s 2019 purchase, they continued to charter the vessel to Irish Ferries. She is one of three Visentini Ro-Pax ferries built with 2,860 lm of freight capacity due to having a reinforced weather deck for trucks.
EPSILON normally operates the Dublin – Holyhead route during the peak tourist season from Spring, when the DUBLIN SWIFT fast-craft is available. For autumn and winter, EPSILON normally swaps with W.B. YEATS on the Dublin – Cherbourg route. However, the Covid and post-Brexit situations have meant that the vessel has spent more time on Dublin – Holyhead to allow the W.B. YEATS with more cabins to carry more driver-accompanied freight to France.
The EPSILON was originally meant to be replaced by a large newbuild in mid-2020. However, the financial problems of the Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) yard seen this order cancelled. Despite reports of the company looking to make a replacement order elsewhere, nothing has yet been forthcoming.
Given the timescales involved, the company will no doubt be scouring the market for a suitable replacement ferry. As highlighted by the recent DFDS 2021 Annual Report, there have generally been no Ro-pax ferries available for charter in recent times. The uncertain Geopolitical landscape and linked fuel price surge may change this and make it easier to secure a suitable replacement. Alternatively, it seems possible that Irish Ferries would consider moving the ISLE OF INISHMORE back from her cross-channel Dover – Calais route to the Dublin – Holyhead route for which she was built.