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ULYSSES to enter Belfast Dry Dock on Friday (updated – now today at 17:00)

Update 28/06/18 @ 15:00:  ULYSSES is now expected to enter dry dock around 17:00 this evening.

Irish Ferries’ current flagship, the 2001-built ULYSSES, is to enter Belfast Dry Dock on Friday morning Thursday evening for what is understood to be the replacement of one of her propeller shafts.  As reported earlier this week, the 50,938gt vessel arrived in Belfast Lough on Tuesday night to anchor off Bangor.  Replacing a propeller shaft is not a small task, and so it is likely that ULYSSES will remain in Belfast until the middle of next week.  Each of the two propeller shafts on ULYSSES connect a reduction-gearbox directly to a 5.1m diameter propeller.  Each reduction gearbox combines the output of two engines, so with one propeller shaft out of action the vessel can effectively only operate at a maximum of half her total power output.

Meanwhile passengers and freight booked to travel on ULYSSES during her expected period of absence are being contacted to make alternative travel arrangements.  The emergency dry-docking of what is currently Irish Ferries’ largest vessel means that with no alternative vessel available, only the 500 passenger capacity EPSILON and the fast-craft DUBLIN SWIFT will be operating the Dublin – Holyhead service for Irish Ferries until ULYSSES returns.  The company have confirmed in the Irish media that ULYSSES has been cancelled due to a problem with one of her propeller shafts, and in a statement, Irish Ferries have said that they plan to offer additional weekend sailings in order to help cope with demand:

“Irish Ferries apologises for this unforeseen disruption, and can confirm that its other ships on the route continue to operate. In addition, the company will operate additional sailings over the week-end, which may mean altering some existing schedules to accommodate these. All passengers are being notified in advance and offered a suitable alternative.”

Irish Ferries Freight meanwhile, have released the following statement to their freight customers:

Irish Ferries Freight is acutely aware and sincerely apologetic for the disruption that we know our service failure is going to cause to your business and to that of your customers over the next number of days in the absence of Ulysses from the Irish Sea. The vessel has to go to into dry dock immediately. At this point our best estimate for a full return to service is next Wednesday, 4th July. All Ulysses sailings are cancelled until further notice.

In order to allow EPSILON to cover the Holyhead route this weekend, her usual round-trip between Dublin and Cherbourg on Saturday and Sunday has been cancelled.

Earlier this month Irish Ferries secured a loan of €80m from the European Investment Bank (EIB) (External Link) to help finance the construction of a new €165m ferry at Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG) in Germany.  When she arrives in 2020 it is intended that the new vessel will enter service on ULYSSES schedule, which will allow the latter vessel to replace EPSILON on the Dublin to Holyhead route.  A further new vessel W.B. YEATS should already be in service between Dublin and Cherbourg, but has been hit with delays and is now not expected to be in service until September.

Rendering of Irish Ferries currently unnamed second FSG new-build ferry. She is 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, yard number 777. She is expected to enter service on the Dublin – Holyhead route in mid-2020. Irish Ferries.


Launched 2001
Gross tonnage 50,938
Vehicle capacity
Trucks / Cars 
241 (max) / 1,342 (max)
Passenger Capacity 1,850
Engine output 31,200 KW
Usual route Dublin – Holyhead

Further info:

Irish Ferries regulatory announcement about securing EIB funding.

Title image: Irish Ferries’ ULYSSES at anchor off Bangor on the afternoon of 27/06/18. She is pictured waiting to enter Belfast Dry Dock two days later for the emergency replacement of a propeller shaft. Copyright © Steven Tarbox.

Steven Tarbox

Steven is a ferry enthusiast from Belfast in Northern Ireland. He founded what was then NI Ferry Site 2014. Since then the site has grown from nothing to an average of over 43k pageviews per month in 2020.
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