Rathlin Express | Rathlin Island Ferry Co

By: Steven Tarbox
Last updated:
RATHLIN EXPRESS. Rathlin Island Ferry Limited.
RATHLIN EXPRESS. Rathlin Island Ferry Limited.

Rathlin Express Overview

RATHLIN EXPRESS is a passenger only catamaran which was built specifically for the Ballycastle to Rathlin Island ferry service to a design by Marine Design International (MDI).  She was assembled from a flat-pack kit supplied by MDI in just 9 months by Arklow Marine, and entered service on 18th July 2009 having cost around £1 million to build.  Although capable of 20 knot sprints, she operates at a maximum of 17 knots, resulting in a possible crossing time of just 20 minutes (compared to the 45 minute crossing time by the car carrying ferry CANNA she was built to supplement. RATHLIN EXPRESS is powered by two Scania marine diesel engines which drive 5 bladed propellers, rather than the water jets which are common on larger car carrying catamarans such as MANANNAN. Like those larger catamarans she is constructed from aluminium alloy.

RATHLIN EXPRESS can accommodate 98 passengers and replaced the ST. SORNEY which had a passenger capacity of just 38.  She was the first aluminium “class B” vessel to be constructed for use in UK waters, and the first purpose-built vessel for the Rathlin Island ferry service.  From 2017 RATHLIN EXPRESS operated the service alongside another vessel purpose-built for the service by Arklow Marine Services, SPIRIT OF RATHLIN, which replaced CANNA.


  • RATHLIN EXPRESS has a near-sister vessel, LADY IONA, which is used to transport workers to the Glensanda Quarry in the Firth of Lorne following a conversion to make her more suitable for that role at Mooney Boats, Donegal.  LADY IONA was built with more powerful engines giving her a continuous service speed of 20kts.
  • A similar (smaller) vessel was constructed in during 2015 at the Mevagh boatyard in Donegal.  It previously operated the year-round ‘Brixham Express’ across Tor Bay between Brixham and Torquay in Devon.  The Brixham Express company shares directors with the Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd, and following the closure of the service the vessel was moved to Ballycastle.

Technical data


MMSI number 235073501
Naval Architect Marine Design International (MDI), Glasgow, Scotland
Assembly Yard Arklow Marine Services (AMS), Arklow, Co. Wicklow (assembly from kit)
Hull Number  
Keel Laid  
Year Completed 2009
Delivery date  
In service 18th July 2009
Interior design  
Call sign 2CKE9
Classification Bureau Veritas

EC Class B passenger ship

Length overall  17.72 m
Beam 6.5m
Depth 2.22m
Draft  1.4m
Tonnage  < 30 (light ship)
  • 2 x Scania D112 60 M10 6-cylinder turbocharged diesel engines, each developing 370kW/500bhp at 2,100rpm.
  • 2 x Twin Disc 5114A quick shift gearboxes (1:92:1 reduction ratio).
  • 2 x 762mm 5-bladed fixed pitch propellers.
Max Power 740kW
Operational speed 17kts
Capacity (as built) 98 foot passengers
Crew (as built) 2
Flag United Kingdom (Belfast)



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