Sunday, June 9, 2013

Common Market Opened the Door to Irish RoRo Freight and Passenger Ferries

Tourists and Commercial Cargo Began to Flow Forty Years Ago This Month
Shipping News Feature

IRELAND –FRANCE – In January 1973 both the UK and Ireland joined the common market heralding in a new age of ferry travel, particularly as trailer freight developed as a viable method of shipping cargo to France and beyond. In June of that year Irish Continental Line, subsequently joined by B&I Line under the Irish Ferries flag, began a direct RoRo passenger car ferry service between Ireland and France and so this month the Irish Continental Group, which now manages the service, is celebrating forty years since the passenger ferry vessel St. Patrick, specially constructed in Bremerhaven to service the Rosslare to Le Havre route, sailed on her inaugural voyage.

As time progressed services to Cherbourg and between Cork and Le Havre were added and subsequently, because of the longer sailing time involved, services to/from Le Havre and Cork were discontinued. In time, a route to the French port of Roscoff was added to the schedule allowing Irish holidaymakers easier access to their favourite destinations along the west coast of France and giving access to the road haulage operators and freight forwarders keen to develop trade in their neighbouring markets.

Today, direct services from Rosslare to Cherbourg and Roscoff continue to play an important part in Irish Ferries operations. Serviced by the vessel Oscar Wilde, the service operates year-round on a three sailings per week schedule and carries in excess of 200,000 passengers annually and offers RoRo ferry services to trailers and other commercial vehicles which still trade using the route. Commenting on the anniversary, Irish Ferries Marketing Director, Tony Kelly, said:

“Over the past four decades, our services to France have made a significant contribution towards building Ireland’s links with communities throughout Europe, especially within France, Germany and the Benelux countries. In trade, education, cultural affairs and in many other aspects of life, the connection that we have provided between Ireland and the mainland of Europe has been one of the key elements in Ireland’s development as a leading EU member state.”

Photo: The Oscar Wilde under way.