Irish Ferries’ W.B. YEATS sea trials now not expected until at least October

Meanwhile operator’s ‘annus horribilis’ continues with an unusual amount of DUBLIN SWIFT cancellations and delays

Update 19.09.18:  Irish Ferries flagship ULYSEES is again suffering technical problems and as a result her sailings have been cancelled for today and much of tomorrow.

Irish Continental Group’s ferry division Irish Ferries horrible year has continued into September with the news that new vessel W.B. YEATS won’t undertake any sea trials until at least October. The new vessel, which is still under construction at Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft in Germany, had originally been slated to undertake trials in May for delivery late that month. Problems with construction have seen the delivery date been put back several times resulting in the entirety of the new vessels sailings in her maiden season being cancelled. This latest revelation, given in an interview published by (in German) confirms what many in the industry suspected – that the vessel could be delayed well past the last firm date given by ICG, September.

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

More Dublin to Holyhead problems

In the meantime Irish Ferries continue to have operational difficulties on their flagship Dublin to Holyhead route. Following the severe technical difficulties with ULYSSES which saw her in dry dock at Harland & Wolff throughout much of July, the other conventional vessel EPSILON also suffered her own technical problems at the end of last month which saw some sailings re-routed on a course close to the Isle of Man! While no official explanation has been given there have been suggestions on social media and elsewhere that the re-routing (and subsequent cancellations) were due to a fault with a lifeboat davit which meant the vessel had to stay within a certain distance of land. Thankfully this particular issue was resolved within a few days.  At the same time the fast craft DUBLIN SWIFT was also cancelled due to “weather conditions” despite calm seas, meaning the service was down to a single ship instead of three for a time.

Irish Ferries EPSILON approaches Belfast Harbour on her way to Harland & Wolff for her 2018 dry docking. Copyright © Steven Tarbox

As mentioned above, DUBLIN SWIFT has been cancelled due to weather conditions when it appears that the weather has been calm. Rather than being a one-off event this has been the case throughout much of August and September. In addition to the weather reports suggesting that the weather has been fine and the seas calm (not to mention passengers posting as such on social media) the vessel seems to have settled into a pattern of operating every other day. When she does operate it is at much reduced speed, suggesting that she is perhaps having a problem with one of her engines.

A screenshot taken from the Irish Ferries website on the morning of 17th September 2018 showing DUBLIN SWIFT as cancelled due to “weather conditions”. This message has been a familiar sight to passengers during August and September.

No compensation for cancelled or delayed crossings

It is not clear whether these technical problems mean she can only operate in the calmest of seas, but NIFS has noted that the weather on some of the days she has been cancelled appears to have been calmer than on some of the days she has run. There have been reports online that affected passengers have been refused a refund of the premium they have paid for the faster service when transferred to other vessels. If, as appears is the case, the cancellations to DUBLIN SWIFT are due to technical problems, the reporting of cancellations as being caused by weather conditions would appear to be an attempt to avoid having to pay affected passengers compensation under EU rules. On the sailings that DUBLIN SWIFT does run she appears to be leaving much earlier than scheduled and taking longer to cross, in what again appears to be a move motivated by avoiding paying compensation for a delayed sailing.  NIFS also notes that the only other fast craft on the Irish Sea, Isle of Man Steam Packet’s MANANNAN, has continued to sail despite the apparent “weather conditions”.

Dublin Swift leaves Harland & Wolff’s ship repair quay behind following completion of her conversion to civilian use, 13/04/18. Copyright © Scott Mackey

In addition to the problems with DUBLIN SWIFT NIFS understands that on several occasions Club Class on ULYSSES has been suspended with the premium lounge reverting to a public bar accessible to all. This appears to have been a move motivated by maximising capacity for passengers transferred from DUBLIN SWIFT. Several passengers who have paid to upgrade to Club Class have posted online they were refused a refund of their club class premium as well.

Irish Ferries ULYSSES leaves Belfast after spending almost a month in dry dock. Copyright Steven Tarbox

A Little Positive News for ICG

In the aforementioned article by (in German) it is stated that Irish Continental Group are being compensated for the delay in the delivery of W.B. YEATS.  While no amount is stated due to contract confidentiality, it is said to be a five-figure sum paid on a daily basis.  With the vessel now several months overdue and an in-service state still not certain, these payments should total a significant sum likely running to millions of Euro’s.

New build NB771 “W.B. YEATS” at the FSG pier Photo credit: FSG