NI Lifeline Services: Vessel Profile: Spirit of Rathlin

Profile of the Rathlin Island passenger and vehicle ferry SPIRIT OF RATHLIN. Includes an overview of her history, technical specifications, and photographs.

IMO Number: 9780122

Constructed by: Arklow Marine Services, Arklow [IE] #62

Also known as: N/A

Spirit of Rathlin departing Wiklow. Courtesy of AMS.


Spirit of Rathlin.


SPIRIT OF RATHLIN is the Ballycastle to Rathlin Island ferry route’s purpose-built vehicle ferry.  The vessel was constructed by Arklow Marine Services of Ireland for the Department for Regional Development (now Department for Infrastructure) at a cost of £2.8m, and is operated by Rathlin Island Ferry Limited under a 10 year subsidised contract with the DFI.  AMS also constructed the purpose-built passenger catamaran operating the Rathlin Island route, RATHLIN EXPRESS. SPIRIT OF RATHLIN is essentially an updated and modernised version of CANNA, the vessel she will replace.  In advance of the introduction of the SPIRIT OF RATHLIN, a new harbour costing £1 million was built at at Church Bay in Rathlin to accommodate the new vessel. This consisted of a new ferry ramp, berthing pier, car park area, fendering system, lighting and re-alignment of the road at Rathlin Island Harbour.

Spirit of Rathlin in mid-air during her ‘launch’ by the crane barge Lara I. This picture is a good demonstration of the shallow draught of this type of vessel – only the area in red sits below the water line! Courtesy of Arklow Marine Services.

SPIRIT OF RATHLIN was ‘launched’ at the end of September 2016 when she was lifted by the heavy-lift crane barge LARA I from the north quay at Arklow into the River Avoca. SPIRIT OF RATHLIN was designed by Argyll Maritime Design Services on behalf of Burness Corlett Three Quays (BCTQ) for the Rathlin Island ferry service, and is classified by Lloyds.  Coincidentally, one of BCTQ’s predecessor companies was responsible for the design of CANNA, the vessel SPIRIT OF RATHLIN will replace.  On 16th January 2017 Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazard announced that SPIRIT OF RATHLIN was complete and ready to enter service once the works to accommodate her at Rathlin were completed, though it would be late March 2017 before she arrived at her new home in Church Bay for the first time.  On the 14th of June 2017 SPIRIT OF RATHLIN began service on the Ballycastle to Rathlin Island route.  This followed a week of maintenance at Mooney Boats, Killybegs where some adjustments were made and the vessel cleaned and repainted.  The modern vessel provides seating for 140 passengers and can accommodate up to 6 passenger cars or a single HGV.  42 of these seats are provided in an enclosed heated saloon to the aft end of the main deck which has padded seating, tables, and a television.  The remainder of the seating is provided in open spaces on passenger decks 2 and 3.

Title image: Spirit of Rathlin departing Wiklow.   Courtesy of AMS.


General arrangement drawings of SPIRIT OF RATHLIN are available from the DFI website here.

Technical Information




IMO Number




Building Yard

Arklow Marine Services, Arklow, Ireland

Hull Number 62
Launched September 2017

Jan 2017

Construction cost


Naval Architect

Argyll Maritime Design Services
(previously trading as A G Salmon & Co)

Maritime consultant

Burness Corlett Three Quays (BCTQ)


Lloyds Register of Shipping
✠100A1 SSC Passenger Mono, G2A,

EU Class C passenger/vehicle ferry engaged on domestic voyages
UK Class C workboat under 24m


Department for Infrastructure (UK Government)

Operator (current)

Rathlin Island Ferry Limited

In service (Current route)

14th June 2017

Call sign


Length overall 


Draught (aft)


Gross Tonnage


  •  2 x Scania D113 071M 12.7l 6-cylinder marine diesel engines each developing 331KW (450BHP) at 1800 rpm.
  • 2 x Twin Disc MGX 5114SC-HD gearboxes (2.54:1 reduction ratio).
  •  2 x Clements Engineering Hyperform 4-bladed 940mm diameter propellers.
  • 2 x keel cooled Beta Marine auxiliary engines producing 28kW each
  •  Clements Engineering steering gear and dual Clements Engineering stern-lift rudders.
  •   1 x Hardy Engineering T600 90kW/120hp bow thruster unit.
  • Vacuum sewage treatment system
Service speed 

8.5 knots
(9.5kts max speed)

  • 140 passengers
    (42 passengers on No.1 passenger deck, 80 passengers on No.2 passenger deck, and 18 passengers on No.3 passenger deck).
  • 6 passenger cars or one HGV.
Vehicle deck configuration

Single bow loading vehicle deck forward of the passenger accommodation.

Onboard Facilities in use


  • Passenger seating
  • Television
  • Separate Male, Female, and Disabled toilet facilities
Flag (Current)

United Kingdom (Belfast)


Additional Photographs

Spirit of Rathlin under construction at AMS. BCTQ.
Spirit of Rathlin under construction at AMS. BCTQ.


Spirit of Rathlin nears the water following her lift from the quay by the crane barge Lara I. Courtesy of Arklow Marine Services.


Spirit of Rathlin rests in the River Avoca following her 'launch' by the crane barge Lara I. Courtesy of Arklow Marine Services.
Spirit of Rathlin rests in the River Avoca following her ‘launch’ by the crane barge Lara I. Courtesy of Arklow Marine Services.


Spirit of Rathlin on her first day of sea trials. Courtesy of Arklow Marine Services.
Spirit of Rathlin on her first day of sea trials. Courtesy of Arklow Marine Services.


Strangford II, with near-sister Portaferry II in the background. Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure.

STRANGFORD II (Vessel Profile)

Strangford II was built in 2016 by Merseyside’s Cammell Laird to a design by BCTQ for the Northern Ireland Department of Regional Development (Now Department of Infrastructure). She replaces the elderly car and passenger ferry MV Strangford as well as the backup passenger ferry MV Rachlyn.

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