The pursuance of the fleet's renewal
At the end of the 90s, the Irish Continental Group, the owner of Irish Ferries set up a huge project to renew Irish Ferries' fleet, for a total cost of €400 million, and including the building of M/S Ulysses, launched in 2000. The Project took an end in 2007 with the purchase of M/S Oscar Wilde on the purpose of replacing the older M/S Normandy. Then, M/V Epsilon joined the fleet in 2013, after a few years without any introduction of a new ferry. Yet, today the company has announced that it is to introduce a new vessel in 2018 in order to replace M/S Epsilon. This new ship, which will cost €144 millions will be built by German shipyard Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesselschaft & Co A.G..
Indeed, M/S Epsilon, whose chartering agreement expires this year, is now too small to accommodate the growing traffic on the route linking Holyhead and Dublin. Moreover, the lack of a bow door and of the ability of being loaded on two decks simultaneously harm to a faster turn-around in ports, making the ship inadequate to the route she serves.
Irish Ferries also hopes that the introduction of a new ship, more comfortable and luxurious would back the growth of the company, itself due to the Economic Growth of Ireland ; whereas the threat of a potential Brexit could bear a damaging blow to the traffics of the route serving Holyhead and Dublin.
Furthermore, the introduction of this new ship will enable Irish Ferries according to its Chief Executive Officer, Eamonn Rothwell to "deliver the best in service, in reliability and flexibility across all our routes.". This Cruise Ferry is "designed to best meet the operational seasonality of Irish Ferries business." Moreover, her flexibility will enable her to serve all of the company's routes. She will meet the requirements of the Ice Class, enabling her to be operated in frozen seas thanks to her strengthen hull, increasing her future flexibility.
This order, funded by a mix of Capital Stock and Loans, intervene when Irish Ferries is in a good financial health, with a Profit before Tax of €54.1 million, and Revenues of €320.6 millions last year.
A future giant of the seas
This new ship is to replace M/S Epsilon, built in 2001 and which joined the Irish company in 2013. This ship has a capacity of 2,860 lanemeters of car deck and which can accommodate 450 passengers will be replaced by a mastodon of 50,000GT (to be compared with the 50,100GT of M/S Ulysses), which could accommodate 165 lorries (on 2,800 lanemeters of car deck) alongside 300 cars ; namely 4,100 lanemeters of car deck, a capacity which is identical to the one of M/S Ulysses. Cars and Lorries will be parked on separate decks, as onboard M/S Pride of Rotterdam and M/S Pride of Hull operated by P&O Ferries.
This new ship will also be the first in Irish Ferries's fleet to be equipped with exhaust scrubbers, enabling her to respect the latest European regulations.
New standards of comfort
The new ship of Irish Ferries will be a giant of the seas, but she will also be the most comfortable ship ever operated by the Irish company, at the risk of overshadowing Brittany Ferries' flagship, M/S Pont Aven, whoch also operate a weekly crossing to Ireland from France. Indeed, this new ship will be a Cruise Ferry, implying that "it does seek to deliver a cruise-like experience during nights the journey", because "to be fait, cuise ships are floating holiday resorts, designed for 7 nights holidays (or longer) and that is a different concept" according to a spokesperson of Irish Ferries.
Passengers Accommodations will be spread over 4 decks, including Bars, Restaurants, both available in À la Carte and Self-Service layout. The Ship will also features a Cinema, several Shops, a Kennel and two Lounges provided respectively for passengers in Club Class cabins with its own Dining Options and for Truck Drivers. There will be 435 cabins onboard, three time as many as onboard M/S Ulysses; with a wide choice of layouts regarding the number of berths and of classes (Standard, Deluxe and Club Class). Club Class cabins will have a private balcony, last seen on a Cruise Ferry in 2004 with the introduction of M/S Pont Aven.
Therefore, this new Cruise Ferry will be very different from her future fleet mate, M/S Ulysses, which is a Day ferry ; whereas this new ferry will be designed as a Night Ferry. This new ship will also draw a sharp contrast with M/S Oscar Wilde, serving the routes linking France and Ireland.
"Irish Ferries to build new €144 million cruise ferry". Irish Ferries. 31/05/2016. Available at www.irishferries.com.
"Irish Ferries orders €144 million cruise ferry". Irish Car #Travel. 02/06/2016. Disponible sur www.carandtravel.eu.
"Now you can have a mini cruise experience on a FERRY: New £112million ship will feature cinemas, restaurants, premium lounges and cabins with balconies. The Daily Mail Online. 01/05/2016. Available at www.dailymail.co.uk.