Dublin-based Irish Ferries has announced that it will charter STAR from Tallink to boost its fleet ahead of the busy summer season. STAR, which will be renamed OSCAR WILDE, will “initially” sail on the Rosslare to Pembroke Dock route. Her first Irish Ferries sailings are expected to take place in early June.
According to Tallink, the charter agreement is for an initial 20 months with a possible extension for 2+2 years and a purchase option written into the contract.
The charter of STAR puts to an end months of speculation about the immediate future of the Rosslare – Pembroke dock service. Irish Ferries had delayed opening bookings on the route for this summer. The charter for the current vessel, BLUE STAR 1, expires shortly with the last timetabled sailings for the vessel currently being 1 June 2023.
STAR will be the second Irish Ferries vessel to carry the name OSCAR WILDE. The previous vessel to carry the name is the current GNV ALLEGRA which previously served Irish Ferries’ Ireland – France services. She also acted as a relief vessel on the Pembroke Dock to Rosslare and Holyhead to Dublin routes.
When she joins the Irish Ferries fleet, OSCAR WILDE will have the largest passenger capacity of any ferry on the Irish Sea. With a potential service speed of 27.5 knots, OSCAR WILDE will also be the fastest ferry on the Irish Sea. It is understood that Irish Ferries will not fully utilise this speed in normal circumstances, however.
OSCAR WILDE has capacity for 2,080 passengers and provides 520 berths in her 131 cabins. The 2007-built ship currently sails under the Estonian flag and has space for 2,380lm of freight. With the second highest cabin capacity in the Irish Ferries fleet (behind W.B YEATS), OSCAR WILDE could also prove to be a useful vessel for the company away from the Pembroke Dock route. She could prove a valuable replacement for the EPSILON’s duties on Dublin – Holyhead/Cherbourg. Alternatively, her twin level drive through capacity could see her join the Dover – Calais route at a future date.
Among the facilities offered on OSCAR WILDE will be the largest duty free shop on the Irish Sea, a Club Class lounge, a self-service restaurant, an à la carte restaurant, a bar, gaming facilities, pet facilities and a children’s play area. It is not clear, however, which of these facilities will be available on all Irish Ferries sailings. Freight drivers will also have their own facilities.
A trio of new ferries for Rosslare
While traffic levels on the Southern Corridor route have been in decline, both ferry routes between South Wales and Rosslare are getting new tonnage this year. Stena Line has confirmed that it’s veteran ferry STENA EUROPE will be replaced on the Fishguard to Rosslare route by the rebuilt STENA NORDICA this summer. The company are also introducing the Baltic cruiseferry STENA VISION on the Rosslare – Cherbourg route. This means that there will be three new ferries serving the Wexford port this summer.
The charter of STAR to Irish Ferries means that over half of Tallink’s fleet of ferries are now chartered out. This reflects a continuing decline in Baltic Sea passenger demand and a failure for bookings to fully recover following Covid-19 travel restrictions. The Ukraine War has also had an impact on the number of travellers using Baltic Sea routes. Tallink welcomed the newly built MYSTAR, a near sister to MEGASTAR, to its fleet earlier this year. With both MYSTAR and MEGASTAR on Tallink’s flagship Tallinn – Helsinki route, STAR became surplus to requirements. She has been used on additional sailings on the Helsinki – Tallinn, however, traffic figures suggest that these have not justified retention of the vessel.
Tallink’s vessel charters (April 2023)
|OSCAR WILDE/STAR||Irish Ferries||January 2025 – plus options of 2 + 2 years|
|ROMANTIKA||Holland Norway Lines||March 2025 – extension possible|
|ATLANTIC VISION/SUPERFAST IX||Marine Atlantic||May 2024 – extension possible|
|SILJA EUROPA||Dutch Government (Ukrainian migrant accommodation)||June 2023 – extension possible|
|ISABELLE||Estonian Government (Ukrainian migrant accommodation)||June 2023 – extension possible|
|VICTORIA I||Scottish Government (Ukrainian migrant accommodation)||June 2023 – extension possible|
|GALAXY||Dutch Government (Ukrainian migrant accommodation)||April 2023 – believed an extension has been exercised to July 2023.|