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Irish Ferries’ Ulysses no longer expected to leave dry dock this week

Update 23/07/18 PM:  ULYSSES now doesn’t appear on the freight timetable until 26/07/18.  She is still showing on the Belfast Harbour system as scheduled to leave dry dock tomorrow morning, however this is as always subject to change and only as reliable as its last update.  We will publish any new information as it becomes available.

Update 23/07/18 Early AM: ULYSSES is currently showing on the Irish Ferries ‘live’ freight timetable from 25/07/18, however as with the below date for leaving dry dock this may change.

Update 21/07/18 PM: Following a number of queries from affected passengers, NI Ferry Site have published a guide to the EU regulations on compensation for delayed or cancelled ferry crossings. ULYSSES is currently projected to leave dry dock in Tuesday 24th July, however this is subject to change and not confirmed.

Update 16/07/18 PM: The following statement from Irish Ferries has been published on the freightlink website (external link):

“Work continues on Ulysses in dry-dock and it is expected that the repairs are going to take the full two week period as advised. This being the case the Dublin/Cherbourg/Dublin service will likely be cancelled on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd July.

Without question I understand that the absence of Ulysses from the Dublin/Holyhead/Dublin route is causing huge frustration and pressure on your business, your customers business, your teams in offices and professional drivers on the road. Be assured that Ulysses return to service is a top priority for Irish Ferries and my commercial team is heavily focused on trying to assist with your daily requirements although I know we are not giving you the service you either require or deserve. For that I apologise unreservedly and I thank you for your genuine tolerance of us at this time. Ulysses has been a champion in our industry for going on two decades and I am confident that her dependable service and relentless reliability will be proven again before long.”
Irish Ferries Freight Manager

Following on from last weeks news that it was planned for ULYSSES to leave dry dock in Belfast tomorrow, it appears that this is no longer the case. The 50,938gt Irish Ferries flagship no longer appears on the publicly accessible harbour booking system, indicating that there are currently no firm plans for her to move from her current location in Harland & Wolff within the next 7 days.

Irish Ferries EPSILON approaches Belfast Harbour on her way to Harland & Wolff for her 2018 dry docking. Copyright © Steven Tarbox
Irish Ferries EPSILON approaches Belfast Harbour on her way to Harland & Wolff for her 2018 dry docking. The Visentini RoPax is currently operating on the schedule of her much larger running mate ULYSSES while the latter is in Belfast for an extended emergency dry docking.  Copyright © Steven Tarbox

ULYSSES originally arrived in Belfast Lough on June 26th, entering Belfast Dry Dock two days later after a period at anchor off Bangor. This followed several days of operating on her regular Dublin to Holyhead service at much reduced speed due to a problem with her starboard propeller shaft. At the time it had been expected the Finnish-built vessel would be in dry dock for around five days, however it has since been discovered on closer inspection that the problems are more serious than initially thought.  At present it is unclear what the specific issue keeping ULYSSES out of service, with Irish Ferries only saving it is an issue with her starboard propeller.  This further delay means it is likely that ULYSSES will be absent for the start of the English and Welsh school holiday period, a key time for tourist traffic on the route.  Current indications are that she will leave dry dock no earlier than July 24th, with schools in England and Wales on holiday from July 20th.  She will then likely require sea trials before resuming service between Dublin and Holyhead.

ULYSSES. Copyright © Scott Mackey.
ULYSSES. Copyright © Scott Mackey.

On the 9th July Irish Ferries parent company Irish Continental Group released a statement saying that ULYSSES could be off service for up to a further two weeks. At present it looks as though her return to service will be at the upper end of that estimate.  The delay also means it is likely EPSILON’s Dublin to Cherbourg sailings will likely be cancelled this weekend as well, so that she can continue to cover ULYSSES schedule.  ULYSSES continued absence means that Irish Ferries only have the Visentini RoPax EPSILON and Austal catamaran DUBLIN SWIFT covering their Dublin to Holyhead route, with their largest vessel missing.  Alternative operator Stena Line meanwhile continue at full strength, but with STENA ADVENTURER and STENA SUPERFAST X understood to be very busy with overspill traffic from Irish Ferries cancelled services.

Irish Ferries' Austal AutoExpress catamaran DUBLIN SWIFT passes Beflast's Victoria Terminal 3 container terminal as she leaves Belfast for Dublin. This followed the conclusion of a comprehensive 3-month long refit and conversion project at Belfast's Harland & Wolff Shipyard
Irish Ferries’ Austal AutoExpress catamaran DUBLIN SWIFT passes Beflast’s Victoria Terminal 3 container terminal as she leaves Belfast for Dublin. This followed the conclusion of a comprehensive 3-month long refit and conversion project at Belfast’s Harland & Wolff shipyard. In the absence of flagship ULYSSES, DUBLIN SWIFT is the main passenger vessel on Irish Ferries Dublin to Holyhead route. Copyright © Steven Tarbox
Launched 2001
Gross tonnage 50,938
Vehicle capacity
Trucks / Cars 
241 (max) / 1,342 (max)
Passenger Capacity 1,850
Engine output 31,200 KW
Usual route Dublin – Holyhead


Steven Tarbox

Steven is a former retail professional and a ferry writer and photographer. He created NI Ferry Site as a web design project in 2014 to be a news and information source for everyone with an interest in ferries, with a particular focus on Northern Ireland. Steven is the editor of the website and looks after all of the technical aspects.
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