End of February ’19 News Roundup

A quick summary of some ferry news stories from February not yet reported on NI Ferry Site.

Frazer Mariner in service on the Carlingford Lough Ferry service

The main Lough Foyle ferry vessel FRAZER MARINER commenced service on the Greencastle – Greenore service across Carlingford Lough on February 14th, allowing the regular vessel on the route AISLING GABRIELLE to stand down and rest at Carlingford before sailing for dry-docking.  At the time of writing AISLING GABRIELLE is at Waterford, having arrived on the afternoon of the 27th following a call at Arklow the previous afternoon. NIFS expects that as with last year AISLING GABRIELLE will dry-dock at New Ross as well as providing cover for FRAZER TINTERN on the Passage East Ferry service.

FRAZER MARINER seen in service on the Carlingford Lough Ferry service on February 14th 2019. Carlingford Lough Ferry.

Lough Foyle Ferry Returns for Easter

“Scenic Lough Foyle Ferry” will commence sailings again at 9 am on Wednesday 17th April, operating until Sunday 28th April 2019.  As with last year a break in service will then follow before the summer service starts at an as yet to be confirmed date.  Meanwhile, the latest AIS data available (from last week) suggests that the backup/relief vessel STRANGFORD I has made her way to Mevagh Boatyard near Downings in Country Donegal and is still there.  Fleet-mate FRAZER MARINER visited the same yard back in December. The following photos appeared on the Mevagh Boatyard Facebook page in January.

STRANGFORD I seen at Mevagh Boatyard in late January. Mevagh Boatyard Facebook Page.
STRANGFORD I seen out of the water at Mevagh Boatyard in late January. Mevagh Boatyard Facebook Page.
STRANGFORD I seen out of the water at Mevagh Boatyard in late January. Mevagh Boatyard Facebook Page.
STRANGFORD I seen out of the water at Mevagh Boatyard in late January. Mevagh Boatyard Facebook Page.

Stena Superfast VII out of dry dock, Stena Superfast VIII in

Harland & Wolff are now dry-docking the final Stena vessel in their 2019 refit programme, STENA SUPERFAST VIII. Sister-ship STENA SUPERFAST VII left Belfast Dry Dock on Sunday night, releasing her sister the following morning from the 07:30 sailing ex Belfast so she could enter dry dock later that day.  STENA NORDICA remains on the schedule normally operated by STENA SUPERFAST VII until VIII’s return when the two regular vessels will switch to their normal schedules. A total of 5 Stena Line Irish Sea vessels have visited the Belfast shipyard this year.

Stena Line’s STENA NORDICA and P&O Ferries’ EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY seen together in Loch Ryan as the former arrives at Loch Ryan Port on Monday 25th Feb 2019. Both vessels were originally ordered for P&O Irish Sea and are part-sisters. Copyright © Scott Mackey

Ulysses returns to service after €4m refit

Irish Ferries returned to the Dublin – Holyhead route on February 13th after a 4-week long drydocking at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead.  In addition to the normal hull cleaning, painting, and general maintenance the €4m refit also included had new propellers, new rudder components, a full refurbishment of her stern thruster, engine overhauls and Vehicle Deck painting programmes. The drydocking follows a troubled year in 2018 for the vessel which will start her 18th year in service next month, with the normally exceptionally reliable vessel visiting Harland & Wolff for almost a month for an emergency dry docking in addition to a missing a number of sailings due to technical issues.

ULYSSES in dry dock at Cammell Laird Birkenhead, 2019. Irish Ferries

Andrew Sheen, Irish Ferries Managing Director said “This is a significant investment in the Ulysses, which we know is a much-loved ship for both freight and tourism traffic. We are delighted to see her return to service to continue to provide the comfort and reliability that our customers expect from the Irish Ferries fleet”.

The return of ULYSSES released the former Rosslare to Cherbourg vessel OSCAR WILDE from covering the Dublin to Holyhead route so she could in turn release ISLE OF INISHMORE from the Rosslare to Pembroke Dock route for her own drydocking.  OF INISHMORE is currently expected to return to service sometime next week. The future for OSCAR WILDE is currently unknown though she had been linked with a charter to La Méridionale which French publication Le Marin has reported fell through as the vessel was no longer available for charter.

ULYSSES in dry dock at Cammell Laird Birkenhead, 2019. Irish Ferries

W.B. YEATS launched to the press

The official press launch of Irish Ferries new Ireland to France RoPax W.B. YEATS took place on Tuesday, 26thFebruary.  The much-delayed vessel has already been in service for a month having made her first commercial crossing between Dublin and Holyhead on the 22ndJanuary. She has had a largely problem free start to service, initially covering most of the dry-docking period of ULYSSES before releasing OSCAR WILDE from the second ship schedule on the Holyhead route on ULYSSES’ return.  W.B. YEATS will be in service on the Holyhead route until the 14th March when she will switch with EPSILON as the Dublin to France vessel until Autumn. The fast-craft DUBLIN SWIFT will then also return to the Holyhead route to provide additional passenger capacity. She is currently laid-up at the Ship Repair Quay in Belfast where work has been taking place on the vessel over winter.

Reception onboard W.B. YEATS. Irish Ferries

Norbay dry Docking in Poland

P&O’s NORBAY arrived in Gdansk on Thursday for dry-docking having left for Poland earlier in the week. Initially, no vessel has provided any cover for her, reducing P&O’s Dublin to Liverpool service from three ships to two and increasing pressure on other operators, particularly Seatruck’s rival Dublin to Liverpool route. The ro-ro freighter MISTRAL will take up the third ship schedule from Monday 4th March.

MISTRAL. © Godby Shipping.

Le Rif for sale

The former STENA GALLOWAY/GALLOWAY PRINCESS, LE RIF, is apparently for sale for a sum of around €10.7m – significantly more than the amount reports suggest part-sister EUROPEAN STAR (ex IBN BATOUTA/STENA ANTRIM) is available for.  The almost 40-year old vessel had previously been linked to Seaborne Freight, but this appears to have amounted to nothing with the start-up operator having lost its UK Government contract and one of its major backers, Arklow Shipping.  It has been reported by the Med Telegraph that LE RIF’s last known registered owner DWLM has had serious financial issues with members of on the vessel having not been paid for a number of months.  While LE RIF has had a significant amount of money spent on refurbishing her accommodation it appears that little was spent on her mechanically.  During her most recent dry-docking in she has been repainted in a predominantly white livery.  DWLM had intended to use LE RIF on across the Gibraltar Straight between Algeciras and Tangier, but it is understood they have been unable to obtain either an operator licence or the necessary certification for the vessel. In partially related news there have been suggestions from sources in France that Seaborne freight is looking to start a service from Ramsgate to Dunkirk rather than to the Belgian port of Ostend, however, there has been nothing from either Seaborne or the port of Dunkirk itself to corroborate this.