Overview of Oscar Wilde
OSCAR WILDE normally operates Irish Ferries Rosslare to France routes, but occasionally provides cover on the Dublin to Holyhead and Rosslare to Prembroke Dock routes when required, such as covering refits. During December 2018, Irish Ferries announced that they were unlikely to operate any sailings to France from Rosslare in 2019. It was reported separately in the media (link in French) that OSCAR WILDE was now for sale, confirming months of speculation that this was the case.
OSCAR WILDE was designed and built by Wärtsilä’s Perno yard (Now Meyer Turku) in 1987 as KRONPRINS HARALD (iii) for Norwegian operator Jahre Line’s Oslo to Kiel route, a crossing which would take her 19.5 hours. She later passed to Color Line when Jahre Line was merged with Norway Line to form that company. Her original interior layout and styling borrowed heavily from Viking Line’s sisters MARIELLA and OLYMPIA (now PRINCESS ANASTASIA, formerly PRIDE OF BILBAO), also built at the same yard, but was split into first and second class passenger spaces rather than the single-class layout of the Viking Line ships.
Irish Ferries Purchase and Rebuild
Irish Ferries purchased KRONPRINS HARALD in 2007, renaming her OSCAR WILDE after the Irish author and playwright of the same name. Although purchased for €45m in January of 2007, KRONPRINS HARALD remained in service for Color Line under a charter arrangement until the arrival of her replacement COLOR MAGIC, then the largest cruise ferry in the world, in September that year. Irish Ferries parent Irish Continental Group had previous experience with Wartsila-built ferries, having previously owned PRIDE OF BILBAO which they had chartered to P&O for their Portsmouth to Bilbao route.
When her Color Line service was finished, KRONPRINS HARALD arrived at the Fredericia Skibsværft A/S shipyard in Munkebo (Fredericia), Denmark for rebuilding for Irish Ferries use on 4th September that year. At the time Irish Ferries said in a press release (09/10/07):
“This work will include the construction of two new state of the art 55-seat cinemas, the restyling of restaurants, bistros, lounge bars, children’s play areas and other passenger facilities in themes that will reflect the link with Oscar Wilde, including a major upgrade to the main restaurant – the Left Bank Brasserie, and the fitting of an extra bow thruster for improved manoeuvrability,
Other items include the fitting out of a new hair & beauty salon, revamping of the main reception area, the provision of 130 new reclining seats, the fitting of new passenger information signs and the re-branding of the vessel in Irish Ferries livery.”
On the technical side, in addition to the fitting of a second bow thruster to improve manoeuvrability in port, Irish Ferries also invested in the upgrade of the smoke alarm systems and an overhaul of the sprinkler system. In total the rebuild/refit took over 2 months to complete, with the now renamed OSCAR WILDE only leaving Fredericia for Ireland (stopping for berthing trials at Cherbourg, Roscoff, and Pembroke Dock on the way) in mid-November. The total cost of acquiring and improving the vessel represented an investment of some €50m by Irish Ferries owners Irish Continental Group.
Ireland to France (and Wales)
The newly named OSCAR WILDE made her first commercial crossing for Irish Ferries on 30th November 2007 at 16:00. Coincidentally this was 107 years to the day since the death of Oscar Wilde in Paris. Flying the flag of the Bahamas, she replaced the older and smaller NORMANDY (as-built a sister to Stena Line’s STENA EUROPE), which was offered for sale. As well as offering superior passenger facilities to her predecessor, OSCAR WILDE could also carry 40% more passenger vehicles and 62 freight units instead of the 43 of NORMANDY.
Despite her thorough refit OSCAR WILDE arrived still wearing the blue hull of Color Line rather than the usual Irish Ferries all-over white livery. This is said by some to be in order to disguise the appearance of rust streaking and other wear and tear to the hull which results from operating on what can be quite a rough and unforgiving crossing. However, no official reason appears to have ever been given for her different livery to the rest of the fleet. To
On 5th February
From 2018, Irish Ferries intend to operate their Rosslare to France sailings on a seasonal basis only. This will entail OSCAR WILDE being laid up for winter. However, due to the delayed delivery of W.B. YEATS , it is currently expected that OSCAR WILDE will act as EPSILON to operate a week-round Dublin – Cherbourg route as previously planned.
During December 2018, Irish Ferries announced that they did not expect to operate any sailings on OSCAR WILDE’s normal routes between Dublin and France. This was a change to the previously stated intention to run a seasonal service from March, and followed delays in releasing the 2019 timetable. French media confirmed that the port agreement at Roscoff had been terminated, and that OSCAR WILDE was for sale. By this stage rumours had already surfaced stating that an agreement was in place to sell the vessel once W.B. YEATS was successfully in service.
- The order of KRONPRINS HARALD was placed on the year of Jahre Line’s 25th anniversary, 1986. Four years later the company name would disappear, with Jahre Line merging with Norway Line to form Color Line. Today Color Line serves Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden.
- The hull form of KRONPRINS HARALD featured a new form of twin-skeg stern devised by Wärtsilä’s Finnish Naval Architect Markku Kanerva to reduce fuel consumption. So successful was this design (which helped KRONPRINS HARALD consume the same amount of fuel as the vessel she replaced, despite being twice the size), that the hull form of KRONPRINS HARALD formed the basis of the hull design of Brittany Ferries’ NORMANDIE and BARFLEUR, amongst others.
- Between 1993 and 2010, Irish Continental Group owned the former OLYMPIA, a vessel OSCAR WILDE‘s as-built layout was heavily influenced by. She never entered service for Irish Ferries though, and instead she was chartered to P&O European Ferries who operated her primarily between Portsmouth and Bilbao as PRIDE OF BILBAO. She is currently St Peter Line’s PRINCESS ANASTASIA.
|Building Yard||Wärtsilä / Wärtsilä Marine Perno, Turku, Finland|
(later known as Kvaerner-Masa, Aker Yards, STX Finland. Presently known as Meyer Turku)
|In service [Original]||26/03/1987|
|In service [Irish Ferries]||30/11/2007 (Rosslare – Cherbourg)|
|Original Interior design||–|
|Current Call Sign||C6WL9|
|Classification||Lloyds Register of Shipping (DNV until 02/2010)|
100A1 Passenger and vehicle ferry
|Length overall (between perpendiculars)||166.3m (150m)|
|Gross Tonnage (Irish Ferries)||31,914|
|Total Number of decks||11|
|Machinery||2 x Wärtsilä Sulzer 12 ZAV 40 (6600kW each) and 2 x Wärtsilä-Sulzer 6 ZAL 40 (3300kW each) engines arranged in pairs in a father-son arrangement. Each pair drives a controllable pitch propeller through a reduction gearbox|
2 x transverse bow thrusters
|Operational speed||21.5 kts|
|Current Passenger Capacity||1,458|
|Current Vehicle Capacity||1,220 lane metres|
62 freight vehicles can be accommodated on deck 3, and approximately 250 cars and vans on deck 4. No HGV’s can be carried on deck 4. Irish Ferries state that Oscar Wilde can carry up to 580 cars (if no freight carried). 20 reefer points are available. Vehicles are accommodated on decks 3 and 4. Deck 3 is accessed directly via the bow and stern doors, and deck 4 accessed from deck 3 via an internal ramp. Max clearance is 4.55m
|On-board Facilities in use|
|Current Flag||Nassau (Bahamas)|
Books and other publications
Id, K., & Peter, B. (2017). Innovation and Specialisation: The Story of Shipbuilding in Finland.Copenhagen: Nautilus Forlag.
Irish Ferries Press Releases dated 09/10/2007 & 30/11/2007
The above article is Copyright © Steven Tarbox, all rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited. All images are Copyright © of their credited copyright holder unless explicitly stated otherwise.
Original Article Published: 08/02/2016
Updated with technical info and partially rewritten 28-30/06/2018
Last Updated: 04.01.18