The longest serving fast-craft on both the Irish Sea and British Isles, JONATHAN SWIFT, left Dublin for the last time this afternoon bound for A Coruña (La Coruña), saluted by a water cannon and renamed CECILIA PAYNE. For almost 19 years she had linked the Irish capital Dublin with Holyhead in Wales.
The 86m long Austal AutoExpress catamaran was purchased new for IR£29m and introduced in April 1999 as Irish Ferries' answer to Stena's HSS 1500-class HSS STENA EXPLORER. The Stena HSS craft was introduced in 1996 between nearby Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead, but only remained in service until September 2014. On the 30th of January this year, Irish Ferries owned Irish Continental Group announced that JONATHAN SWIFT had been sold to Baleària Eurolineas Maritimas S.A for a sum of €15.5m plus fees.
It is expected that CECILIA PAYNE will now operate on the Palma de Mallorca - Ibiza - Denia - Ibiza - Palma de Mallorca route from June the 1st in competition with Trasmediterranea's Gandia (Valencia) - Ibiza route. Baleària have previously purchased other former Irish Sea ferries, including the former STENA ANTRIM and STENA NAVIGATOR (still in service with the company as POETA LOPEZ ANGLADA).
Already renamed in Dublin with her previous name hastily covered over, CECILIA PAYNE is replaced by the slightly larger 101m long Austal AutoExpress DUBLIN SWIFT (ex WESTPAC EXPRESS), which was recently converted for her new role by Harland and Wolff during a 3-month visit to the Belfast yard. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was a female Anglo-American astronomer who in 1925 proposed that stars were mainly composed of hydrogen in 1925. The name follows a recent trend by Baleària of naming their vessels after female scientists.
DUBLIN SWIFT carried her first passengers between Dublin and Holyhead yesterday, following almost two weeks of sea and berthing trials, crew training and familiarisation, and inspections. It is currently expected that DUBLIN SWIFT will lay-up over winter once Irish Ferries' new "Cruise Ferry" RoPax W.B. YEATS moves to the Holyhead route in September following the conclusion of her inaugural summer season on the increased frequency Dublin to Cherbourg route. JONATHAN SWIFT was of course a previous visitor to Belfast herself, having visited Harland & Wolff for refits and routine maintenance and inspections.
With thanks to Robbie Cox. Title image: JONATHAN SWIFT clears the Dublin Fairway for the last time renamed CECILIA PAYNE with a destination of Coruna in Spain. Copyright © Robbie Cox.