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Irish Ferries to Introduce Second Ferry on Dover-Calais Route Doubling Frequency

5th November 2021
Irish Ferries announced the purchase of cruise ferry Calais Seaways which is to be renamed Isle of Innisfree following rebranding while drydocking prior to entering service in December.  AFLOAT adds this ferry had until three months ago operated for DFDS Dover-Calais route until replaced by newbuild Côte d'Opale, one of the expanding E-Flexer class series built for Stena Ro Ro which has chartered the vessel to the operator which competes with Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries on the Strait of Dover link between the UK and France. Irish Ferries announced the purchase of cruise ferry Calais Seaways which is to be renamed Isle of Innisfree following rebranding while drydocking prior to entering service in December. AFLOAT adds this ferry had until three months ago operated for DFDS Dover-Calais route until replaced by newbuild Côte d'Opale, one of the expanding E-Flexer class series built for Stena Ro Ro which has chartered the vessel to the operator which competes with Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries on the Strait of Dover link between the UK and France. Credit: ICG/Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries announced today the addition of a second ro-ro cruise ferry Isle of Innisfree to its Dover-Calais route joining Isle of Inishmore, which was launched just months ago onto the premier UK-France link, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, title to the 28,833 tonne ship Calais Seaways transferred to Irish Continental Group (ICG) upon delivery yesterday. Following drydocking and rebranding into Irish Ferries livery, the 1,140 passenger/83 freight vehicles or 600 cars capacity ferry is expected to enter service within the first week of December.

The debut of the renamed ferry, Isle of Innisfree (the third to take the name) will double frequency on the short-sea link between Britain and mainland continental Europe, thus providing customers a complete UK landbridge service with their Irish Sea routes. In addition the two-ship service will enable Irish Ferries to be closer to rival DFDS three-ship operation, though P&O Ferries have four ferries plying on the Strait of Dover.

Isle of Innisfree, originally launched as Prins Filip was built in 1991 by the Boelwerf shipyard in Belgium, however did not enter service until the following year for RMT, a Belgium state operator that also linked the UK from Dover to Oostende. Despite several change of ownerships and under various renamings, the ferry has spent for the most part of a career plying between south east England and northern France.

The introduction of Isle of Innisfree offers a host of quality facilities for freight drivers/passengers such as a self-service restaurant, café/bar, Club Class lounge, onboard duty-free shop, children’s play area and spacious outdoor decks.

Commenting on the acquisition of secondhand tonnage, Andrew Sheen, Irish Ferries Managing Director, said: “We are delighted be able to add a second ship to our Dover / Calais route, with the ship doubling our frequency with a departure every 2 ½ hours rather than the current 5 hours between sailings. The ship underlines our commitment to this route and facilitates trade for both exporters and importers as well as ensuring capacity for essential passenger movements and greater choice for tourism”.

Afloat also adds the name of ferry chosen, Isle of Innisfree revives that of a previous vessel of the same name when ICG ordered their first custom-built newbuild which entered service on the Dublin-Holyhead in 1995. The order for Isle of Innisfree (II) on the Ireland-Wales route was much needed to modernise, as predecessor B&I Line (acquired in 1991 by ICG) was an ailing Irish state-owned company operating ageing smaller tonnage. 

As for the first ever ferry named Isle of Innisfree, this took place in the early 1990's under the brand of B&I (when chartered-in by ICG). Despite the change of ownership, ICG retained the line's famous trading name until consigned to history at the start of 1995. 

The second Isle of Innisfree built in the Netherlands served the Ireland-north Wales link until replaced by Isle of Inishmore in 1997 and which in turn was replaced by Ulysses in 2001. The cruiseferry continues to operate the Irish Sea service.

As referred above, the Isle of Innisfree, ICG eventually sold the renamed Kaitaki following years on charter in New Zealand as Afloat reported over the years. The ship continues to operate in the southern hemisphere for operator, KiwiRail. Their InterIander service links the north and south islands across the Cook Strait on the Wellington-Picton route.

A pair of larger passenger, freight train-enabled ferries have been ordered to replace Kaitaki along with two other fleetmates. The first of the newbuilds is due to enter service in 2025 and the second in the following year.

Both ro-pax ferries are to be built by South Korean shipyard Hyundai Mipo Dockyard which is currently building the Isle of Man Steam-Packet's newbuild ro-pax which is to be named Manxman and delivered in 2023.

The newbuild will replace Ben-My-Chree which was built by Van der Giessen de Nord that was also responsible for the construction of the Innisfree/Kaitaki and the Isle of Inishmore.

In addition the Dutch shipyard also built Blue Star 1 which is on charter to ICG following the transfer of Isle of Inishmore from the Rosslare-Pembroke route. 

Published in Irish Ferries
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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About Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries, owned by the Irish Continental Group, is a a major ferry operator in Ireland, providing daily and weekly links to and from Ireland for tourism and freight travelling between Ireland and the UK and Ireland and the continent. Irish Ferries has a fleet of six ships, three of which service the busy Dublin to Holyhead route.

The ICG Chairman is John B McGuckian and the CEO is Eamon Rothwell.

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