IRELAND – GERMANY – The world’s largest cruise ferry in terms of capacity is to be built by Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesselschaft & Co.KG (FSG) for the Irish Continental Group (ICG), owners of Irish Ferries. The RoPax (or possibly RoRo*) vessel will accommodate 1,800 passengers and crew, with capacity for 5,610 freight lane metres, which provides the capability to carry 330 freight units per sailing. Overall, it will effectively be a 50% increase in peak freight capacity compared to the incumbent vessel on the route, MV Ulysses and is another vessel to be built by the German yard for the operator.
The pair say the new ferry will be designed and built to the highest standards of cruise shipping, and equipped with efficiency, comfort and capacity in mind. Emissions scrubber technology and ballast water systems will meet current and known future environmental regulations and will deliver optimal fuel consumption while minimising related costs. The cruise ferry will be powered by four main engines delivering 33,600 KW of power which will ensure a high degree of service reliability equal to the MV Ulysses which Irish Ferries claim is the most reliable ship to ever operate on the Irish Sea.
The cruise ferry is being built specifically for Irish Ferries Dublin – Holyhead services and is expected to replace the schedule of the MV Ulysses, which in turn will replace the currently chartered vessel MV Epsilon in the fleet. This will allow for the deployment of the W.B. Yeats (due to arrive in mid 2018, and whose naming was the result of a competition) full-time on the direct Ireland – France route alongside the MV Oscar Wilde. The cruise ferry will also adhere to Ice Class specification which allows for a wide geographic area of operation.
Freight capacity will be provided over five decks and uniquely, the vessel has been designed for three tier freight bow access to allow for efficient loading/unloading and quick turnaround times. Passenger facilities will be spread over three decks. In addition to a choice of bars, restaurants (to include both á la carte and self-service options), special provision has been made for premium Club Class passengers, with a dedicated lounge featuring private access direct from the vehicle decks. There will be a choice of state-of -the-art entertainment options and cinemas, dedicated facilities for freight drivers, as well as many retail outlets.
The agreement between ICG and FSG provides that the cruise ferry is scheduled for delivery before Mid-2020 at a total cost of €165.2 million, 20% of the contract price being paid in instalments during the construction period. The balance of 80% will be paid on delivery. ICG intend to utilise credit facilities to finance the cruise ferry. The pre-delivery instalment payments to FSG will be protected by means of bank guarantees.
The new ship compares favourably with the Ulysses at 67,300 gross tonnes as against the smaller ships 50,938, and the ability to carry a maximum of 330 trucks against the current 241. Whilst overall passenger capacity is down by 50 at 1,800, the demand for better services sees cabin numbers up from 96 to 152. Referring to the announcement Eamonn Rothwell, Chief Executive Officer, commented:
“This investment underpins the confidence the Group has in the markets in which we operate. Alongside the recent investment in the MV W.B. Yeats, it brings our total investment to €315 million for these two vessels designed for our operations on the Irish Sea. The construction of a cruise ferry of this size will offer both additional capacity and an enhanced experience for both our tourism and freight customers. This infrastructural investment enhances ‘the bridge’ to the UK and Continental Europe that is a vital part of the continued success of Ireland’s open economy.”
*RoRo or RoPax – you decide. Although the new ship meets virtually all the criteria for RoPax her top speed, at 20.8 knots, is below the minimum of 25 knots which some define as a minimum for RoPax operations.
Photo: An artist’s impression of the new ship.