Could Irish Ferries’ new vessel prove important for live exports?

The completed hull of Irish Ferries’ new cruise ferry – W. B. Yeats – was recently launched into the water at the shipyard of Flensburger Schiffbau–Gesellschaft in Flensburg, Germany.

This vessel isn’t scheduled to arrive in Dublin until July of this year; but, could it prove important for live exports?

A spokesman for Irish Ferries told AgriLand that it does not propose to publicly “discuss or reveal” what the company’s future intentions are in relation to the transport of live animals – following the planned introduction of their new, larger cruise ferry on its Ireland-to-France service later this year.

However, the spokesman was quick to add that Irish Ferries “has always been supportive of the agricultural sector generally, and will remain so in the future”.

The spokesman said that Irish Ferries’ decision not to engage in public debate on the matter is being taken for – what he termed – “commercial reasons“.

Having been built in Germany, the W. B. Yeats – ceremonially named by Ms. Rikki Rothwell – was launched into the water on Friday last, January 19.

There to attend the event, alongside shipyard workers and officials, were representatives of the company led by Irish Continental Group plc chairman John McGuckian, chief executive Eamonn Rothwell, chief financial officer David Ledwidge, and managing director of Irish Ferries Andrew Sheen.

Costing in the region of €150 million, the cruise ferry is scheduled to arrive into Dublin next July, when it will enter year-round service on Ireland-to-France and Dublin-to-Holyhead routes.

In the intervening months, remaining construction work on the hull will be completed and the vessel will be fitted out with all of the technical, operational, decor, furnishings and passenger amenities required onboard, Irish Ferries explained.

Before scheduled services can commence, it will undergo sea trials, crew training and docking procedures at the Irish, UK and French ports into which it will operate, the company added.

Set to be “the largest and most luxurious ferry ever to sail on the Irish Sea”, it is claimed the W. B. Yeats will have space for: 1,885 passengers and crew; 435 cabins, including luxury suites with their own private balconies; and almost 3km of car deck space.

Commenting on the launch, Sheen said: “The launch of our new cruise ferry W. B. Yeats – and the expectation of our second new cruise ferry yet to come – heralds in a new era in ferry travel between Ireland, the UK and continental Europe, bringing with it new standards in terms of: passenger and freight capacity; comfort; and reliability beyond anything previously envisaged”.

‘An even larger cruise ferry’

Meanwhile, the shipyard where the W. B. Yeats is being built will “shortly commence” building a second, even larger, cruise ferry for Irish Ferries for delivery in 2020.

The project was commissioned only weeks ago by Irish Ferries’ parent company, Irish Continental Group plc, at a contract price of €165.2 million.

Intended for service on the Dublin-to-Holyhead route, this second new vessel is set to be the largest cruise ferry in the world – in terms of vehicle capacity – with accommodation for 1,800 passengers and crew, Irish Ferries added.

Its vehicle decks will have 5,610 freight lane metres, providing the capability to carry 330 freight units per sailing – a 50% increase in peak freight capacity, compared to the current vessel Ulysses, the ferry company concluded.