AISLING GABRIELLE operates the year-round Scenic Carlingford Ferry service, having previously operated the seasonal Lough Foyle Ferry service as FOYLE VENTURE between 2003 and 2016. She was completed in 1978 by Scott and Sons (Bowling) on the Clyde, and was not only one of the final vessels constructed at the yard but also the only ferry. Since her completion until the year 2000 she operated for the Shannon Ferry Company as SHANNON WILLOW, before a lay-up of some 3 years awaiting a new owner. That new owner was to be the Lough Foyle Ferry Company, who had only been running their service across Lough Foyle between Greencastle (Co. Donegal) and Magilligan Point (Co. Londonderry) since the previous June. Named FOYLE VENTURE in May 2003, she replaced the smaller and older CARRIGALOE (previously Caledonian MacBrayne’s KYLEAKIN of 1970) which had only been chartered for a single season from her owners, who operated the “Passage West” ferry from Glenbrook to Carrigaloe near Cork.
A new owner and operator
At the end of her season on October 4th, 2015 FOYLE VENTURE completed what would be her last crossing for the Lough Foyle Ferry Company. The owners of that company announced during November 2016 that they would no longer be operating the service as they could no longer do so profitably without additional public subsidy. FOYLE VENTURE had already been sold to Limerick based Frazer Ferries by this stage, whom had intended to operate her on a much-delayed new service across Carlingford Lough between Grenore (Co. Louth) and Greencastle (Co. Down). Planning objections would further delay that new service, however, during May 2016 Frazer Ferries announced that they had secured the contract to run the Lough Foyle service for the following 3 years (with the option of a further 4). At the same time Frazer Ferries also announced that they had acquired the Passage Est ferry service across the River Suir which connects Waterford City with the Hook Peninsula in Wexford, along with its vessel FBD TINTERN.
FOYLE VENTURE resumed commercial operations of the Lough Foyle service on the 6th of July as a Frazer Ferries vessel though still in her old livery. However despite what appeared to some to have been a successful season with increased traffic levels following a 20% cut in prices, Frazer Ferries announced at the end of 2016 they would not continue to operate the service due to heavy losses.
A Return South
As of December 2016, FOYLE VENTURE was laid up in Waterford City, though she conducted berthing trials at the Passage East ferry ports of Ballyhack and Passage East on the 15th of that month. In mid-April she sailed to the New Ross boatyard for a refit, before making her way back to Passage East to cover the FBD TINTERN so the latter vessel could go for her own refit at New Ross when she was renamed FRAZER TINTERN. FOYLE VENTURE then returned again to New Ross in the second week of May, this time receiving a full repaint during a 2 week long dry docking at the boatyard.
New home and a new route
FOYLE VENTURE emerged from New Ross in a new blue and white livery with the name (FRAZER) AISLING GABRIELLE on her hull, and sailed for Wicklow Port, arriving on the evening of 18th of May for an overnight stop. Around €1m had been spent on refitting her for the Carlingford service including work on her engines, vehicle ramps, and hydraulics. The following morning AISLING GABRIELLE left for her new home of Greenore, Co. Louth, and on the evening of May 20th 2017, AISLING GABRIELLE arrived at Greenore for the first time. It had been anticipated that the vessel would enter service on the 2nd of June, but operational issues meant that this was delayed until 12 noon on 21st of July 2017. The first crossing was the culmination of around 9 years of work and almost €10m of private investment from Frazer Ferries in the Carlingford Ferry route. In the meantime, Frazer Ferries had decided to take on the Lough Foyle Ferry route again, though on different contract terms and with a different (smaller) vessel, FRAZER MARINER, which had already entered service across Lough Foyle earlier in July.
During February 2018 AISLING GABRIELLE was released from the Carlingford service by FRAZER MARINER so she could return to New Ross for her 2018 refit, arriving on the morning of 22nd February. Following a period covering FRAZER TINTERN on the Passage East service so she could go for docking in New Ross, AISLING GABRIELLE returned to New Ross herself on the 23rd of April. This was to receive an engine upgrade which Frazer Ferries say will boost her engine power and reduce the likelihood of mechanical breakdown in the future.
|Building Yard||Scott & Sons (Bowling) Ltd, Glasgow, UK|
|Launched||20th June 1978|
|Current Owner||Frazer Ferries|
|Current Operator||Frazer Ferries|
(Trading as Scenic Carlingford Ferry)
|In service [Original]||1979|
|In service [Lough Foyle Ferry]||June 2003|
|In service [Scenic Carlingford Ferry]||21/7/17|
|Length overall [Inc. ramps]||63m|
|Length (between perpendiculars)||48m|
|Machinery||Twin diesel engines driving twin screws. (upgraded May 2018)|
|Operational speed||10kts approx.|
|Capacity (max)||300 passengers and 44 cars|
|Vehicle decks||Single deck accessed by a ramp at either end. Double-ended ferry.|
[For both Frazer Ferries and Lough Foyle Ferry Company Ltd.]
TITLE IMAGE: Frazer Ferries AISLING GABRIELLE on trials at Greenore in advance of commencing the Scenic Carlingford Ferry service from the Louth port to Greencastle in County Down. Courtesy of the Carlingford Twitter/Facebook page.
The above article is Copyright © Steven Tarbox, all rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited.
Original article published 02/25/2014
Rewritten and updated: 08/25/2017
Converted to 2017 format and gallery added: 08/26/2017
Converted back to WP format: 06/03/18
Additional images and on-board gallery added: