The major new vessel for Irish Ferries, delayed at the Flensburg builders, is at Dublin and very impressive she looks too at the terminal.
This comes at a time when the future of ferry traffic to and from Ireland is at a watershed due to the impending departure from the EU of the currently Cypriot flagged, newly named WB Yeats. She had made her delivery route to Dublin via Cherbourg, where she may open a direct Ireland-France route in mid-March 2019, more than six months later than scheduled due to delays caused by sub-contractors, according to Flensburg builders FSG. The same yard also delivered the Calmac Ullapool-Stornoway vessel Loch Seaforth late to Calmac. These delays do not place European builders in a good light compared to the Chinese and Korean builders, but arguably ferry operators need to bear in mind a future where some healthy building and engineering capacity is retained in Europe.
On the Dublin-France route, WB Yeats will offer customers a total of 440 cabins, including luxury suites with private balconies. The Dublin-Cherbourg route takes between 17 and 19 hours to complete and is currently served by the ageing ex Norwegian flag ferry Oscar Wilde.
The uncertainty is also exercising the Irish Government and ferry companies. Bypassing the UK by goods traffic is increasingly a favoured option and the freight capacity of the new WB Yeats might be available at just the right time on a Dublin-Cherbourg service. The Cobelfret Belgian centred ro-ro combine is already developing their recently opened Rotterdam-Dublin service. Cobelfret is a very impressive operation with UK terminals at Purfl eet and Killingholme while Rotterdam and Zeebrugge are their continental hubs.
On my recent visit to the Thames, there were two of their major units at Purfleet, which is due for expansion, and the small attractive Cymbeline arrived laden from Vlissingen on what seems to be at least a daily link.