Ulysses | Irish Ferries

Ulysses Fast Facts

Current Name: UlyssesPrevious Names: Ulysses has always been known by her current name
Shipyard: Aker Finnyards Oy, Rauma [FI] #429, IMO Number: 9214991
Current Operator: Irish FerriesCurrent Route: Dublin [IE] - Holyhead [UK]
Length Overall: Beam:
Passenger Capacity: 1,875Vehicle Capacity: 4,076 lane metres of freight (approx. 240 freight units) OR 1,342 cars OR a combination of both
Tonnage: Sister-ships: N/A

Ulysses: Design and Construction

Irish Ferries 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 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 ISLE OF INISHMORE had both 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 instead.

Irish Ferries’ ISLE OF INISHMORE. Originally built for the Dublin to Holyhead route, she moved to the Rosslare – Pembroke Dock (Milford Haven) route after being replaced by ULYSSES. Irish Ferries

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.

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. At the time of her introduction, ULYSSES was the largest ferry in the world in terms of lane metre capacity and deadweight.


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. This is known as “tumblehome” in naval architecture.

When delivered the ULYSSES would physically be one of the largest in the world (SILJA SYMPHONY was slightly shorter in length but of greater gross tonnage), and would also have the largest theoretical car capacity – some 1,342 cars when a mezzanine deck consisting of six individual panels is deployed on the top freight deck. Only the upper freight deck is fitted with these panels to form a mezzanine car deck.

The mezzanine is accessed from the bow via a curved fixed ramp on the port side from the entrance to the main deck – an innovation at the time but one which has been used on subsequent vessels. A similar ramp is also used at the stern of the vessel, also positioned on the port side. This speeds up loading and unloading and also puts the majority of car passengers closer to the passenger accommodation.

Irish Ferries ULYSSES publicity photo. Irish Ferries.

Passenger Facilities

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 487 person capacity traditional Irish pub.

The Club Class lounge onboard ULYSSES. Irish Ferries

Why Ulysses?

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.

Leopold Blooms bar, ULYSSES. Irish Ferries.

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 2018 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 (despite being based on an Aker concept design). This resulted in her becoming known as one of the most reliable ferries in the world.

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

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 ULYSSES 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.

Irish Ferries ULYSSES. Irish Ferries.

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 meant that OSCAR WILDE filled in as ship instead until the delivery of W.B. YEATS from her builders in Germany.

W.B. YEATS pictured at the Flensburg shipyard (FSG) on the morning of June 8th 2018. Copyright © Frank Jensen.

Most recent Belfast visit

ULYSSES‘ 17th year of service 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.

Irish Ferries ULYSSES, accompanied by a Svitzer tug, makes her way past STENA HIBERNIA on her way to Belfast Dry Dock on the evening of 28/06/18. Copyright © Steven Tarbox

In late-June following a period of a few days operating at reduced speed, ULYSSES made her way to Belfast Lough, arriving at around 11 pm 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 5 pm for what was understood to be a replacement propeller shaft and repairs to her starboard controllable pitch propeller.  

This was delayed after the discovery of further technical issues, with ULYSSES remaining in Belfast Dry Dock for most of the month of July 2018.

ULYSSES approaches Belfast Dry Dock for an emergency dry docking on 28/06/18 with STENA HIBERNIA in the background, while AZAMARA PURSUIT (in Belfast for refit) looks on from the Ship Repair Quay. Copyright © Scott Mackey.

€4m 2019 Refit

During January 2019 ULYSSES went for another dry docking, though this time at Cammell Laird Birkenhead. She returned to the Dublin – Holyhead route four weeks later on February 13th.  In addition to the normal hull cleaning, painting, and general maintenance the significant €4m investment also included new propellers , new rudder components, a full refurbishment of her stern thruster, engine overhauls and vehicle deck repainting.

ULYSSES‘ new propellers are similar to those fitted to W.B. YEATS from new. In addition to an optimised blade design incorporate rotating propeller caps. Thus decreases propeller resistance and increases thrust thus making the vessel more efficient. Following this substantial investment, ULYSSES appeared to shake off the reliability problems which plagued her during 2018.

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

In early 2020, ULYSSES sailed to Poland for further upgrade work. The main focus of this lengthy maintenance period (which was originally expected to last about six weeks but overran significantly) was to retrofit Wärtislä-designed exhaust gas scrubbers.

This was part of a €25m project to fit scrubbers to both ULYSSES and ISLE OF INISHMORE in order to allow them to continue to burn conventional heavy fuel oils rather than reduced sulphur variants. In addition to allowing the ship to consume lower cost fuel oils, Irish Continental believe that using scrubbers reduces emissions further than the use of low sulphur fuel oil.

As of the start of March 2021, ISLE OF INISHMORE has yet to be fitted with her scrubbers.


On the January 2018 Irish Ferries owner 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 she will replace ULYSSES 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 was to be the largest in the world in terms of vehicle capacity. With some 5,610 lane metres of freight space, more than most Ro-Ro vessels, she would have been able to accommodate 330 freight units per sailing. This would have been an increase of 50% compared to ULYSSES.

Rendering of Irish Ferries currently unnamed second FSG new-build ferry, yard number 777. She is expected to enter service on the Dublin – Holyhead route in mid-2020. Irish Ferries

In addition to 5 full-height freight decks (versus ULYSSES‘ 4) the new 67,300gt (approx) vessel would have had passenger facilities spread out over 3 decks including a dedicated cabin deck. Further information on the now cancelled new Irish Ferries FSG-built Dublin – Holyhead ferry can be found here. Rumours of a similar ship being ordered from a different yard have so far come to nothing.


SILJA SYMPHONY, Helsinki, 29.06.15. Copyright © Marko Stampehl, courtesy of AS Tallink Grupp.

Technical information



IMO Number


MMSI number





Irish Continental Group


Aker Finnyards
(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
(Sky Lounge/observation deck)

Naval Interior Team (NIT), Finland
(Cinema, children’s world, staircases & public toilets)

Construction Cost

€100m (IR£80m)

Hull Number


Keel Laid



01.09.2000 (floated out)

Year Completed


Delivery date

(first Dublin arrival 04.03.2001)

In service


Interior design (original)

Claus & Camilla Horn (Denmark)

Current Call Sign

C4HP2 (previously EICB until Jan 2006)


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)



Moulded Depth



6.4 (6.6m scantling)

Gross Tonnage



10,722 (6.6m draught)

9.665 (6.4m draught)

Total number of decks


Passenger decks

3 (decks 9, 10, and 11)

Vehicle decks

5* (*assuming the mezzanine panels are deployed on deck 7 to form deck 8)


  • 4 x MAK 9 M43 9-Cylinder Resilient Mounted Main Diesel Engines producing a total of 31,200kW (41,808 H.P.) @ 500 rpm
  • 2 x Valmet Reduction Gear Units Type M2HBC- 1700 + 650, each connected to two 3,100kVA shaft alternators
  • 2 x Lips 5.1m diameter 4C16 Controllable Pitch Propellers each with Four High Skew Blades
  • 2 x Becker Rudders with GSK-linked Super-Y-Flap, each linked to a 65 degree Porsgrunn Rotary Vane Electro-Hydraulic Steering Unit
  • 3 x MAK 8M20 Diesel Generators each developing 1,520KW @ 1000 rpm
  • 4 x Leroy Somers Shaft Alternators LSA 54 L9/4P 3100kVA Voltage 6000
  • One Sisu Diesel DSJGK (developing 736kW) emergency genset (based on a Cummins V12 KTA38-G3 diesel engine), and a Newage Stamford 634 K2 alternator
  • 3 x Lips CT275 Transverse Tunnel Bow Thrusters, each developing 2,400kW
  • 1 x Lips CT275 Transverse Tunnel Thruster developing 2,400kW
  • 2 x Neptune Folding Fin Stabilisers
  • Salwico CS3000 Fire Detection & Alarm System
  • Porsgrunn steering gear

Max Power


Service speed

22kts @ 85% MCR


Approx. 70 tonnes per 24hrs operation on the Dublin to Holyhead route 

Current Passenger Capacity


Passenger Cabin Berths


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 panels are deployed to turn the top RoRo deck into twin car decks (deck 7 and 8).


125 (83 crew cabins are provided totalling 121 berths)

Onboard Facilities in use

  • Club Class (Premium lounge)
  • Volta Picture Theatre
  • Cyclops Family Entertainment Centre
  • James Joyce Balcony Lounge
  • Boylan’s Brasserie
  • Café Lafayette
  • Leopold Blooms Bar
  • Silly Milly’s funhouse (card table and gaming machines)
  • Marino Casino (gaming machines)
  • Sandycove Promenade Deck
  • Free WiFi
  • Surfbox Internet @ Sea
  • Freight Drivers Club
  • Reception & Bureau de Change
  • Ulysses Walking Tour
  • A choice of passenger cabins

Home Port / Flag

Limassol / Cyprus (since 01.02.06)

Dublin / Ireland (until 2006)


Deck plan

Click the image below to enlarge

Official ULYSSES deck plan from 2016
Irish Ferries ULYSSES. Copyright © David Faerder.


Internet Sources

Books and other publications

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