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The End of an Era? Irish Ferries ‘Unlikely’ to Operate a France Service from Rosslare in 2019

Updated 20.12.18:  Added full Irish Ferries statement.
13.0.19: Fixed broken images

Irish Continental Group subsidiary Irish Ferries yesterday announced that they are “unlikely to operate a service between Rosslare and France in 2019” saying “A majority of our customers have a clear preference for the more central location and easy access of Dublin”.  The announcement comes following months of speculation that the services from Rosslare to Cherbourg and Roscoff could be axed totally following the decision to only offer sailings on a seasonal basis for 2018.  Yesterdays announcement has attracted widespread criticism from the Irish press and on the Irish Ferries social media channels, and follows rumours that the Rosslare to France vessel OSCAR WILDE was available for sale during spring.  Recently there have been further rumours that an agreement has been reached to sell the vessel once W.B. YEATS is successfully in service, but there has been no official announcement to this effect.  Despite some online speculation, there does not appear to be any plans for a complete Irish Ferries withdrawal from Rosslare with the timetable for the Rosslare to Pembroke Dock route operated by ISLE OF INISHMORE already published.

Cafe Lafayette onboard OSCAR WILDE. Irish Ferries. Pic: Miki Barlok
Cafe Lafayette onboard OSCAR WILDE. Irish Ferries. Pic: Miki Barlok

OSCAR WILDE originally entered service in 1987 for Jahre Line (later Color Line) as KRONPRINS HARALD, and was acquired by Irish Continental Group in 2007 to replace NORMANDY, the sister-ship of STENA EUROPE.  The 31,914g “cruise ferry’ has capacity for some 1,458 passengers but just 1220 lane metres of freight and 270 cars – a small vehicle capacity by modern standards.  International legislation means that she has to run on expensive Marine Gas Oil when in the current emissions control zone east of Falmouth, which has further increased costs on what is already an expensive vessel to operate due to her extensive passenger facilities.  From 2020 the Irish Sea will also be a part of the emissions control zone and so it may be that Irish Continental Group have decided to cash-in on an ageing asset while they still can.  While other Irish Sea operators are understood to have plans to fit exhaust emissions scrubbing technology to reduce the exhaust emissions of their vessels in order to comply with this legislation without having to burn more expensive fuel, OSCAR WILDE is one of the oldest vessels in the current Irish Sea ferry fleet and it may not be practical or economically viable to fit expensive emissions controls technology to her given her limited remaining operational life.

Irish Ferries NORMANDY arrives in Cherbourg during summer 1998. She was previously Sealink Stena Line's STENA NORMANDY on the shorter Southampton to Cherbourg service and predecessor Sealink British Ferries' ST. NICHOLAS on the Harwich to Hoek van Holland service. Copyright © Rob de Visser.
Irish Ferries NORMANDY arrives in Cherbourg during summer 1998. She was previously Sealink Stena Line’s STENA NORMANDY on the shorter Southampton to Cherbourg service and predecessor Sealink British Ferries’ ST. NICHOLAS on the Harwich to Hoek van Holland service. Copyright © Rob de Visser.

The veteran ferry has recently been covering for the much delayed W.B. YEATS on the Dublin to Holyhead route, with the latter vessel effectively replacing OSCAR WILDE as the Ireland to France vessel from mid-March though operating from Dublin instead of Rosslare.  W.B. YEATS is currently expected to enter service on the Dublin to Holyhead route early in January 2019 before switching to the French link for the spring/summer season, effectively swapping with EPSILON which is covering the Dublin to Cherbourg service over autumn and winter.  

Irish Ferries W. B. YEATS arrives in Rosslare for the first time on 19th December 2018 for berthing trials. Copyright © Brian Boyce.
Irish Ferries W. B. YEATS makes an impressive sight as she arrives in Rosslare for the first time on 19th December 2018 for berthing trials. Copyright © Brian Boyce.

W.B. YEATS arrived in Rosslare a short time ago for berthing trials, and is expected to make her way to Holyhead in Wales later for the same.  Her maiden arrival in Dublin is currently scheduled for around 09:45 tomorrow morning, when she is expected to berth at the main Irish Ferries Dublin berth 49.  At present it appears she will spend a number of days at berth 18 near to the East Link Bridge before moving to berth 51a on January 2nd, however these plans may change.

Irish Continental Group's Saint Patrick II is shown here at Belfast's Donegal Quay whilst covering for St Colum I's annual refit. She normally operated the seasonal Rosslare - France service. © Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Irish Continental Group’s Saint Patrick II is shown here during 1987 at Belfast’s Donegal Quay whilst covering for St Colum I’s annual refit. She normally operated the seasonal Rosslare – France service. © Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

18/12/2018 12:00
Irish Ferries wish to inform their customers that they are unlikely to operate a service between Rosslare and France in 2019. We continue to keep this situation under review.
A majority of our customers have a clear preference for the more central location and easy access of Dublin. Our new W.B. Yeats ship will operate from Dublin to Cherbourg, with 20% greater passenger capacity up to 4 days per week and is now available for booking on Irishferries.com.
 
Irish Ferries souhaite informer ses clients qu’il est peu probable qu’ils exploitent un service entre la France et Rosslare en 2019. Nous continuons de suivre de près cette situation.
Notre nouveau navire le W.B. Yeats assurera la ligne Cherbourg – Dublin, avec une capacité de passagers accrue de 20%, jusqu’à 4 jours par semaine et est désormais disponible à la réservation sur irishferries.fr.

Irish Ferries statement
Rendering of Irish Ferries currently unnamed second FSG new-build ferry. When ordered she was expected to enter service on the Dublin - Holyhead route in mid-2020. Irish Ferries
Rendering of Irish Ferries currently unnamed second FSG new-build ferry. When ordered she was expected to enter service on the Dublin – Holyhead route in mid-2020. Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group has its roots in services to France from Rosslare, having been formed as Irish Continental Line in the early 1970’s specifically for the purpose of running a route between Rosslare and Le Havre.  In 1992 they acquired then Irish Government controlled B&I Line which had routes between Dublin and Holyhead and Rosslare to Pembroke Dock but an ageing fleet.  A period of investment then followed with successive new build ferries ISLE OF INNISFREE (now operating as KAITAKI in New Zealand), ISLE OF INISHMORE, the fast-craft JONATHAN SWIFT, and ULYSSES all arriving between 1995 and 2001.  W.B. YEATS is the first of two new vessels ordered from Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft in Germany, with the second scheduled to enter service between Dublin and Holyhead in 2020 as the new company flagship.

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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