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Irish Ferries Announce Newbuild for UK/Ireland/France

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On BF operating from Cork rather than Rosslare/Dublin, isn't a factor that the route is as much about servicing those living in France wanting to holiday in Western Ireland as it is about the Irish wanting to go to France? And even for the latter, I'd have thought that in Cork BF have a market niche that is different from that served by IF?

 

About 90 per cent of passengers on the Cork-Roscoff route seem to be Irish and Northern Irish, the rest being continental Europeans (French, German, etc). Of course BF have a niche in the Cork market. They are the only international ferry company in Ireland that actually have a walk-in office and a store front in Cork city centre (Grand Parade). This gives high-visibility to the brand and I guess BF's years of service to Cork had bred a group of core BF loyalists. Hence, you will sometimes see Cork-registered cars on BF’s Spanish services. But Cork city only has a population of 120K (300K for the whole county) which makes it a very small niche.

 

 

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As we know from PA's recent unscheduled visit, it is possible to load and unload vehicles in Brest at the commercial port. If IF are serious about competing on the Dublin-France routes, and as Zuludalta says there are a lot of potential customers with an hour or two of the port, why not ignore Cherbourg and Roscoff and go straight into Brest. They have got two years before delivery to get the port infrastructure sorted and the motorway access to the south and west is much better. Provide a real alternative, not just a carbon copy service, and you might find it works. Ed

 

Yes! Irish Ferries wanted to use Brest originally. The idea of sharing Roscoff with BF didn't appeal to them. However French central government declined to grant Brest port permission to build a ferry terminal on the basis there was a perfectly good fully equipped ferry port not far away with berthing slots available and which could be said to be under-utilised.

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Which might change if IF were able to lobby the right people and put forward a persuasive case. I also wonder what the attitude will be after the 23rd June. If a Brexit is confirmed then two years down the line when the new vessel will be delivered the UK could well be on the verge of leaving the EU and ties between the other member states might get stronger. The possibility of more frequent and varied crossings would allow those who currently cross through Wales and England the opportunity to go direct to western France bypassing the strengthened and stringent immigration checks. Ed.

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I'm slightly surprised that there's such a demand from Ireland to France for there to be 3 good quality ferries serving the routes plus a couple of others here and there. Given Ireland's relatively small population I would have thought it wouldn't have been much of an earner. Clearly I'm wrong.

 

France is the 3rd most visited country behind the Uk and Spain for Irish people. 2014 figures below

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BF need to up their game on the Cork-Roscoff route. The one sailing a week is very restricitive. I live in Cork and we holiday in France almost every year and it must 15 years since we used them on both legs of the journey. Although we live 20 mins from Ringaskiddy the lack of departures means we drive to Rosslare 2.5 hours away where eirther Stena or IF have a daily departure. In those 15 years I reckon I've used BF 5 times to travel back to Cork.

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It is extremely restrictive CCS147. It's really just a token service. It only runs 6 months of the year so there are only 26 (max) ferry movements in Ringaskiddy per year which can't be economic for the port authority. IF introducing some competition might be the very stimulus that BF need to offer a more comprehensive service. Your statistics above are interesting but obviously include air travellers. So do you have any idea of the numbers who travelled to the top three destinations by ferry only? Ed.

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The other option is that if BF does not think it can compete with IF (and doesn't want to do what would be necessary to do so) then it could just decide to shut Cork down. Or they may take the perfectly reasonable view that the current level of service is working fine - ship is usually full and Cork does not need more frequent sailings - so no reason to change it.

Edited by Gareth

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The other option is that if BF does not think it can compete with IF (and doesn't want to do what would be necessary to do so) then it could just decide to shut Cork down. Or they may take the perfectly reasonable view that the current level of service is working fine - ship is usually full and Cork does not need more frequent sailings - so no reason to change it.

 

Do we know what it is full of? If it's passengers then there is clearly a thriving sail-drive-stay market during the months it operates, the vast majority of whom must be retired or childless couples on both the French and Irish sides. I can't see many of them being foot passengers except for those travelling from France on day trips hoping for a few hours in Cork. If that is correct then an extension of the season at both ends would probably still be economical by a month or so. If it is full of freight then why bother using such a well-appointed vessel? I would also love to know just what they are transporting. I would not be surprised if it was fresh fish for the Spanish market in which case how many of the freight units in fact remain onboard when she gets back to Roscoff, cross over to Plymouth and then down to Spain? Ed

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I don't think Brexit has had any influence on IF's decision to order a new build so why should it form part of BF's? The new tonnage ordered for Dublin will predominantly be used for the short sea crossing from Dublin to Holyhead and will possibly signal the end for Johnathon Swift.

 

I think it's also worth remembering that BF aren't slow on the uptake either, they saw an opportunity at Bilbao and also at Le Havre, swooping rapidly, If they felt that Cork required attention I'm sure they would act.

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A few observations here......

 

Firstly I don't think the new vessel will be a direct replacement for Epsilon at all, despite the wording of the press release. You don't build a ship with that much power, so many cabins and luxury facilities just to ply between Dublin and Holyhead Tuesday to Friday and a weekend jolly to Cherbourg at the weekend. This in my view spells the end for Rosslare as the starting point of IF's French service, a subject that has been doing the rounds for a couple of years now.

 

It's no secret that the company have been seeking a suitable secondhand vessel to replace the Oscar Wilde, but like BF have hit a wall as there is nothing available with sufficient cabins. The OW is still a fine ship but is costing the company a fortune in spare parts and the route is barely if at all profitable. They have to keep a very keen eye on what plans Stena have, who would jump in with bigger tonnage of their own given half a chance.

 

ICG, the owners of Irish Ferries are an extremely well run and canny company; just look at the share price over the last 12 months to see how well they are doing. With a much improved motorway network in the country, almost all roads lead to Dublin and it makes financial sense to move French operations to the capital, at the same time appealing to more potential customers north of the border. I can see Oscar Wilde continuing for one more season until the new vessel (how about MV James Joyce as a suitable name) begins operations. If I’m right then Epsilon could still continue on Dublin - Holyhead in an almost freight only role and there’s no reason why the Swift should go either. As long as crude oil prices stay low she makes money, and that’s the bottom line as far as ICG are concerned.

 

As for BF and Cork I see no reason as to why they cannot continue with the current schedule despite the obvious inconvenience of leaving and arriving on a Saturday (2 nights on board, 5 nights in France). My experience is that Pont Aven is generally rammed for most of the season with a broad cross-section of customers, and especially large families. We regularly see couples with a gaggle of young children not restricted by school holiday dates, and there is a big French demand to visit the Emerald Isle too. As I was once a member of Cercle Voyageur, the French version of Club Voyage, I receive at least 1 email per week from BF offering incentives to tour the country.

 

There is usually very little freight disembarking each Sunday morning in Roscoff, generally live shellfish lorries heading to Spain to unload in the local markets first thing Monday morning. I would imagine Cork – Roscoff, Roscoff – Plymouth, then Plymouth on to Santander would cost a fortune and waste a precious day in the process…

 

Chris

 

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I'm slightly surprised that there's such a demand from Ireland to France for there to be 3 good quality ferries serving the routes plus a couple of others here and there. Given Ireland's relatively small population I would have thought it wouldn't have been much of an earner. Clearly I'm wrong.

 

 

Err, you know Ireland is an island? Direct links to the contenant are necessary for trade.

 

 

Yes! Irish Ferries wanted to use Brest originally. The idea of sharing Roscoff with BF didn't appeal to them. However French central government declined to grant Brest port permission to build a ferry terminal on the basis there was a perfectly good fully equipped ferry port not far away with berthing slots available and which could be said to be under-utilised.

 

 

Actually, Irish Ferries never had a problem with sharing Roscoff, the CCI de Morlaix (I wonder who if a shipping company owned by a co-op is influencial there) wouldn't allow Irish Ferries access, so they started making arrangements to use Brest, and took anti competition case to the EU Comission.

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Err, you know Ireland is an island? Direct links to the contenant are necessary for trade.

 

 

 

 

Actually, Irish Ferries never had a problem with sharing Roscoff, the CCI de Morlaix (I wonder who if a shipping company owned by a co-op is influencial there) wouldn't allow Irish Ferries access, so they started making arrangements to use Brest, and took anti competition case to the EU Comission.

 

The Lloyd's List report at the time gave a different impression I seem to remember. However maybe it's a distinction without a difference -- Irish Ferries had problems with Roscoff whatever their nature. The fact they go to Cherbourg exclusively out of season and alternate with Roscoff only in high season rather speaks for itself.

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The fact they go to Cherbourg exclusively out of season and alternate with Roscoff only in high season rather speaks for itself.

 

What are you suggesting this demonstrates HT?

 

My reading of this is nothing more than the holiday traffic from Ireland to France dries up in the winter, the freight would prefer to land in Cherbourg than in a remote NW corner of Brittany, and that operating to Roscoff in winter weather is not without its operational difficulties. Exactly the same reasons why BF's service from Cork shuts down in the winter too. I don't think anything can be inferred at all about how welcome IF is or isn't at Roscoff purely from the fact that they don't go there in winter.

 

 

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The Lloyd's List report at the time gave a different impression I seem to remember. However maybe it's a distinction without a difference -- Irish Ferries had problems with Roscoff whatever their nature. The fact they go to Cherbourg exclusively out of season and alternate with Roscoff only in high season rather speaks for itself.

 

Have you got theLloyd's pieces? EU Comission's press release on the ruling found CCI abused their power, and had to give ICG access.

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release....htm?locale=en

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Something to consider I guess is that this new build will also be serving Ireland - France market with a another reasonably luxurious ship, potentially eating into BF's share. BF have a very infrequent, seasonal only offering to Ireland currently but it is with Pont Aven. With the exception of Oscar Wilde, most ships from any line to serve France from Ireland have not been great. Incidentally - the premium cabins on Oscar Wilde are already at a par with BF's commodore I would say - http://www.irishferries.com/uk-en/ships/oscar-wilde/

Should BF be looking at expanding their Irish operations?

 

Bf should be looking at expanding their Irish operation if they want to retain their Irish Customers. Currently the one sailing a week is very restrictive with 2 nights onboard & 5 in France. Customers who want to extend their stay are forced to use IF or Stena for one leg of the journey. BF with the Pont Aven was seen as a premium offering and as such commanded a higher price but once customers were forced to try the Oscar Wilde they found it was a very comfortable ferry with better cabins/beds than the Pont Aven. The food offerings have been improved considerably - though not yet up to the standard of La Flora.

Now as looks likely the new ferry may operate from Dublin to Roscoff/Chebourg the incentive for Northern Ireland customers to travel another 160 miles to Cork will be gone & based on the sailings I have been on they form a large part of the passenger numbers .

Based on the Cork Port statistics BF carries about 88000 passengers in the season & with 52 rotations that gives an average of just under 1700 passengers per sailing so it must be a profitable route that they would want to retain.

​In order to do that they need [ in my opinion] at least one more sailing a week & a better attitude to providing alternatives if the sailings are cancelled

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Current indications seem to be that this new building will indeed replace Epsilon, with the ship designed to be able to switch "modes" between an overnight and day ferry. Heck of a coincidence in any case that Epsilon's charter was recently extended by 2 years to end around the time this new build will be completed! Epsilon has been very successful for ICG, perhaps too successful given her basic facilities compared to Ulysses. I doubt it is an accident that she has the capacity to replace both the Swift and Epsilon on the Holyhead route. There have also been suggestions by some that ICG may actually switch the French operation to Dublin (where most people live, creating a hub effect with the busy Holyhead operation as well). In any case, it appears there is an option incorporated into the contract with FSG, with delivery of the first ship set to be close to the date Epsilon's charter expires. ICG probably wouldn't need as much capacity for a Oscar Wilde replacement in any case.

 

At risk of being shot down (given the name of this forum), BF's Cork service isn't as successful (or lucrative) as some people think, going by the figures compared to those of IF and Stena (pro-rated for the reduced number of sailings, and with the usual health warnings). In any case, if it was that popular surely BF would have expanded the operation, particularly baring in mind BF's expansion into new services in recent years? Expanding an existing operation would carry less risk than establishing a new one. I doubt it is a coincidence that the single round trip occurs at the weekend when volumes (particularly freight volumes) elsewhere are lower meaning the ship would be under utilised. Just my 2p ;)

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p;#8203;In order to do that they need [ in my opinion] at least one more sailing a week & a better attitude to providing alternatives if the sailings are cancelled

 

Just an observation but do you realise the cost implications of your comment?

 

As has been aired on numerous occasions and threads on these forums BF are currently in a battle to secure funding to replace existing, soon to be past its sell by date tonnage; most likely 2 new vessels and possible a third. So the only way to add a second round trip to Cork is by sacrificing a Spanish sailing and that won't happen in the short to medium term, if ever.

 

I fully understand the frustration that cancellations generate, for whatever reason. What they can't afford is to have a 100 million pound vessel parked up somewhere as a "courtesy vessel" along the same lines as when your car is in the garage. To be fair to BF they offered either an immediate transfer plus compensation to an Irish Ferries sailing, or a Rosslare-Pembroke, Plymouth-Roscoff alternative again with mileage and hotel allowance, or alternatively a complete refund. Nobody expects a relatively new vessel to be sidelined for so long, but in the circumstances what else can they do?

 

Chris

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As has been aired on numerous occasions and threads on these forums BF are currently in a battle to secure funding to replace existing, soon to be past its sell by date tonnage; most likely 2 new vessels and possible a third. So the only way to add a second round trip to Cork is by sacrificing a Spanish sailing and that won't happen in the short to medium term, if ever.

 

BF/BAI are doing something very wrong in Cork so, Goodbody here have said that ICG will have made their money back on the new ship in less than 3 years (and they are paying for the ship them selves, it's not government funded). If BF are struggling to secure funding like you claim, Spain is the non lucritive route, not Ireland.

 

It might also be worth pointing out, one of the reasons for the Ponts high speed when ordered, was so she could fit in another Cork rotation mid week (BF's Cork office spent a lot of time saying it would happen in the press here).

 

 

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"It might also be worth pointing out, one of the reasons for the Ponts high speed when ordered, was so she could fit in another Cork rotation mid week (BF's Cork office spent a lot of time saying it would happen in the press here)."

 

​That was before they started running to Portsmouth. Even if they ran from Plymouth I don't think there is enough time, they could run an 8 day week, with the rota moving on a day each week, would that work in practice?

 

 

 

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Maybe BF were put off by a second Ireland - France run by their experience with their Cork-St. Malo route?

 

​I think this was back in 1995 and was a mid-week service operated by the Duchess Anne . It only ran for one season. The exact reason they terminated the route I'm not sure.

 

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I reckon a 2nd service could be implemented yet it would be tight. PA would have to operate from Plymouth for both her Santander legs but is this an issue?

 

Something like this...

Sunday Plymouth - Santander

Monday Santander - Plymouth

Tuesday Plymouth - Santander

Wednesday Santander - Plymouth

Thursday Plymouth - Roscoff

Thursday Roscoff - Cork

Friday Cork - Roscoff

Friday Roscoff - Cork

Saturday Cork - Roscoff

Sunday Roscoff - Plymouth

 

Can Cork be done in 12 hours? Otherwise this wouldn't work. I seem to recall someone mentioning PA operated the route with a day sailing upon introduction.

 

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The problem is the time of the Cork crossings, it's not a full day trip but you can't do a round trip in a day, with turn arounds. The only way it works would mean either a departure or arrival at some unsocial hour at some point.

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The Cork run always used to be a 15 hour crossing prior to Pont Aven coming onto the scene. With her extra speed she brought the passage time down to 13 hours. I doubt very much that 12 is something that could be achieved with enough reliability and confidence to base a timetable around it.

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I've noticed that I.F haven't advertised the cruising speed for this new build. They seem able to remain competitive on their French routes without the need for 27-28 kt capable vessels, infact it appears that their market share is growing.

 

Another crucial point worth taking into account is that Oscar Wilde could depart both Rosslare & Cherbourg over 3 hours later than her advertised timetable and still maintain the same arrival times.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if BF decided to leave the R.O.I to the Irish...

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Me neither. I guess in time they will probably either expand their Cork service or pull out of it. If they did the latter, I reckon they would be able to squeeze an extra Plymouth-Santander rotation out of Pont Aven and still manage the Roscoff round trip (for crew change). Something like this:

 

Friday 0730 arrive Roscoff (as at present); 0930 depart Roscoff; 1330 arrive Plymouth; 1615 depart Plymouth

Saturday 1415 arrive Santander; 1700 depart Santander

Sunday 1300 arrive Plymouth; 1545 depart Plymouth (as at present)

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