News about ferries and car ferries The Irish Sea ferry industry is like any other sector of the shipping industry in that it is made up of a multitude of ship operators, owners, managers and charterers, all of whom help to provide a network of routes operated by a multitude of vessels, designed for different, albeit similar, purposes.
All of these ferry activities involve conventional ferry tonnage, “ro-pax”, where the ship is primarily designed to carry more cargo capacity than passengers. However, in some cases this is completely different than fast ferries, where they carry many more passengers and charge a premium.
Covering the ferry scene, we examine the ever-changing trends of this sector as rival ferry operators compete in an intense environment, vying for market share in the aftermath of the economic crisis. All of this has consequences that some feel immediately, while sometimes the impact can be prolonged over time, to the detriment of others, through reduced competition or acquisitions, or even with complete removal from the market, as has been seen in recent years .
Of course, in these challenging times there are winners and losers, as illustrated by the trend to only use high-speed ferries in the peak summer months and on shorter routes. Where Fastcrafts once dominated the ferry scene, they were replaced in the heady days from the mid 90’s onwards by newer newcomers in the form of the ‘Fast Ferry’ and with a heightened level of luxury that nonetheless seems to be shaping up as a budget alternative.
Regardless of the type of vessel used on the Irish Sea routes (between 2 and 9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of the industry turning as cargo vehicles in the truest sense of the word (roll-on and Roll-off), ships coupled with motorized tourists and tourists the humble “foot” passenger transported 363 days a year.
As such, the pure freight carriers provide important trade routes between Ireland and the UK where the freight transport customer is ‘king’ to generate year-round revenue for the ferry operator. However, the custom tonnage commissioned in recent years has exceeded Irish Sea capacity levels in certain areas of the cargo market.
A prime example of the need for trade, which we consumers often come to expect on a daily basis, although we may wonder how it reached our shores, is the just-in-time delivery of perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.
A visible manifestation of this is the morning and evening arrivals at our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and speedboats depart simultaneously. Essentially, this is a marine version of our road-based commuter traffic, coming in and out along the commuter belts.
Across the Celtic Sea, coverage of the ferry scene also covers the nightly direct ferry services from Ireland, connecting north west French ports in Brittany and Normandy.
Due to the seasonal nature of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may operate mainly from February to November, but this in no way reduces operator competition.
Note that there have been plans over the years to operate a direct Irish-Iberian ferry service that would take existing freight markets and create new ones. Should a direct service be opened it would also open up new opportunities for holidaymakers where Spain is the most visited country in the EU for Irish holidaymakers… towards the sun!