Overview of Ulysses
Design and Construction
Irish Ferries ULYSSES was ordered on 8th July 1999 as a larger replacement for the hugely successful RoPax ISLE OF INISHMORE on the Dublin to Holyhead route, which had replaced the smaller ISLE OF INNISFREE just a few years earlier. The IR£80m (€100m) order for an even bigger vessel was a direct response to a huge increase in growth in freight traffic between Ireland and the UK, and came despite duty-free sales on EU ferries ending just days earlier on the 30th June. The new vessel would be complemented by the fast-craft JONATHAN SWIFT, which had been introduced to the route just days earlier. ISLE OF INNISFREE and SLE OF INNISFREE had been ordered from the Dutch shipyard Van de Giessen de Noord, but for ULYSSES Irish Continental Group opted for the Finnish shipyard of Aker Finnyards.
A First for Freight Capability
The as yet unnamed ferry was to be the first to incorporate four full-height freight decks allowing her to carry an impressive 4,100 lane metres of freight, around twice the amount of the ISLE OF INISHMORE. The fourth freight deck was born out of necessity as the new vessel would have to fit the constraints of Dublin Port, but Irish Ferries had set their sights on doubling freight capacity while still only using the one ship in order to achieve greater economies of scale. The solution arrived at by the design team at Rauma involved tapering the superstructure of the vessel to compensate for having the weight of a freight deck so high up the vessel. When delivered the vessel would physically be one of the largest in the world (SILJA SYMPHONY was slightly shorter in length but of greater tonnage), and would also have the largest theoretical car capacity – some 1,342 cars when a mezzanine deck was deployed on the top freight deck.
Despite the motivation behind ordering the new vessel being based around moving more freight, ULYSSES would not compromise on passenger facilities with the usual lounges, restaurants, a twin screen cinema, dedicated freight drivers lounge, passenger cabins, and even a traditional Irish pub.
The name Ulysses was chosen via an earlier public competition, winning due to both being the name of a famous novel about Dublin by James Joyce as well as also being the latin name for the hero of Greek mythology, the Greek king Odysseus who was cursed by Poseidon to wander the seas for ten years. As the James Joyce novel chronicled a day in the life of Leopold Bloom in the city of Dublin, it was decided to theme the passenger areas of the new ship around the novel.
Arrival and entry into service
ULYSSES‘ first arrival in Dublin Bay was at 07:00 on Sunday 4th March following a six-day voyage from Finland. She then made her way into her home port for the first time around midday. Following a period of crew training and familiarisation, drills, and berthing trials the new vessel was blessed and named on the 21st of March. She then entered service two days later with a 12:15 departure from Dublin to Holyhead. ULYSSES has remained on the same route ever since, only straying for refits and dry docking.
Until recently it could be claimed that ULYSSES had never missed a sailing, whatever the weather. This was in no small part to the high specification of her machinery and the fact she was designed specifically for the Holyhead to Dublin route, and resulted in her becoming known as one of the most reliable ferries in the world.
This remarkable reliability made her even more popular with freight customers, who depend on the ferry running to be able to meet their own customers deadlines. During December 2013 ULYSEES was joined on her route by the chartered Visentini Ropax EPSILON on weekdays, to further increase freight capacity on the Holyhead route – even ULYSSES had been outgrown by the market.
It had been expected that newly constructed RoPax W.B. YEATS would replace EPSILON on the Autumn/Winter schedule from 2018 to release the latter for a week-round Dublin to Cherbourg service, however delays to her delivery now mean that OSCAR WILDE will fill in as second ship instead until the delivery of W.B. YEATS from her builders in Germany.
Most recent Belfast visit
ULYSSES‘ 17th year of service has proved more challenging than others with technical problems plaguing the vessel and forcing her to be cancelled on several occasions. Her reputation as one of the most reliable ferries in the world was challenged in 2018, with rudder problems leading to the cancellation of a number of sailings early in the year.
In late-June following a period of a few days operating at reduced speed, ULYSSES made her way to Belfast Lough, arriving at around 11pm on 26/06/2018 to anchor off Bangor. During the afternoon of 28/06/18 she left the anchorage for Harland & Wolff, arriving in Belfast Dry Dock at around 5pm for what is understood to be a replacement propeller shaft and repairs to her starboard controllable pitch propeller. At present the vessel is still in Belfast Dry Dock, with Irish Ferries saying that she should return to the route by the morning of July 6th. This was delayed after the discovery of further technical issues with the vessel remaining in Belfast Dry Dock for most of the month of July.
On the 2nd January 2018 Irish Ferries owners Irish Continental Group announced that they had placed an order with Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesselschaft for a second new ferry in two years at a contract price of €165.2m. On delivery in 2020 she will replace ULYSEES as the main vessel on the Dublin to Holyhead route, with ULYSSES transferring to the ‘second ship’ roster currently operated by EPSILON. Following in the footsteps of her predecessor, the new vessel will be the largest in the world in terms of vehicle capacity, with some 5,610 lane metres of freight space able to accommodate 330 freight units per sailing. This represents an increase of 50% compared to ULYSEES. In addition to 5 full-height freight decks (versus ULYSSES 4) the new 67,300gt (approx) vessel will have passenger facilities spread out over 3 decks.
- ULYSSES won the Lloyds List Cruise and Ferry 2001 award for ‘Most Significant Newbuild – Ferry’
- ULYSSES has often been promoted as the ‘largest car ferry in the world’, however this is based on her purely theoretical car capacity if no other vehicles are carried. Even before ULYSSES was launched she was far eclipsed in terms of physical size by vessels such as the 13 deck high 58,376gt SILJA SYMPHONY which entered service a decade before. ULYSSES is currently the 5th largest ferry (in terms of tonnage) serving the British Isles, behind Stena Line’s STENA BRITANNICA / STENA HOLLANDICA (currently the longest ferries in Europe along with STENA GERMANICA and STENA SCANDINAVIA) and P&O Ferries PRIDE OF HULL / PRIDE OF ROTTERDAM. The current largest ferry in the world in terms of tonnage is the 223m long COLOR MAGIC, which coincidentally replaced KRONPRINS HARALD (iii) – the vessel which is now Irish Ferries’ OSCAR WILDE.
(based on the Aker Cruise Ferry 4000 concept, but adapted to Irish Continental Group requirements. Aft exterior styling by Claus Horn & Knud E Hansen on behalf of Irish Ferries.)
|Building Yard||Aker Finnyards Oy, Rauma, Finland|
|Original Fit-out||SBA Marine, Finland|
KAEFER Eristystekniikka Oy, Finland
Naval Interior Team (NIT), Finland
|Construction Cost||€100m (IR£80m)|
|Launched||01/09/2000 (floated out)|
(first Dublin arrival 04/03/2001)
|Interior design (original)||–|
|Current Call Sign||C4HP2 (previously EICB until Jan 2006)|
|Classification||Lloyds Register of Shipping|
LR + 100 A1, Ice Class 1A, Roll on/Roll off Cargo & Passenger Ship + LMC, UMS, NAV1, IBS, SCM, IWS
|Length overall (between perpendiculars)||209.2m (192.4m)|
|Draught||6.4 (6.6m scantling)|
|Dead-weight||10,722 (6.6m draught)|
9.665 (6.4m draught)
|Total number of decks||12|
(decks 9, 10, and 11)
(*assuming the mezzanine plates are deployed on deck 7 to form deck 8)
|Service speed||22kts @ 85% MCR|
|Current Passenger Capacity||1,875|
|Passenger Cabin Berths||228|
|Current Vehicle Capacity||4.076 lane metres|
(Deck 7: 988, Deck 5: 1341, Deck 3: 1402, and Deck 1: 345)
Equivalent to a total of 240 freight units OR 1,342 x 4.5m long cars if all 6 hoistable plates are deployed to turn the top RoRo deck into twin car decks (deck 7 and 8).
|Crew||125 (83 crew cabins are provided totalling 121 berths)|
|On-board Facilities in use|
|Current Flag||Limassol (Cyprus)|
Click the image below to enlarge
Books and other publications
Id, K., & Peter, B. (2017). Innovation and Specialisation: The Story of Shipbuilding in Finland.Copenhagen: Nautilus Forlag.
Cowsill, M., & Merrigan, J. (2013). Irish Ferries: An Ambitious Voyage.Ramsey: Ferry Publications trading as Lily Publications Ltd
The above article is Copyright © Steven Tarbox, all rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited. All images are Copyright © of the credited copyright holder unless explicitly stated otherwise.