Irish Ferries will introduce a second ferry on the Dover-Calais route doubling the frequency

Irish Ferries today announced the addition of a second ro-ro cruise ferry Isle of Innisfree to its Dover-Calais route to Inishmore Island, which Afloat reported was launched ago a few months on the first UK-France link, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, ownership of the 28,833 tonne Calais Seaways vessel was transferred to Irish Continental Group (ICG) upon delivery yesterday. After dry docking and rebranding in Irish Ferries livery, the ferry with a capacity of 1,140 passengers / 83 vehicles or a capacity of 600 cars is expected to enter service within the first week of December.

The debut of the renowned ferry, Isle of Innisfree, will double the frequency on the short sea link between Great Britain and mainland Europe, providing customers with a full UK land bridge service with their routes from the Irish Sea. In addition, the two-ship service will bring Irish Ferries closer to DFDS’s rival three-ship operation, although P&O Ferries has four ferries plying the Strait of Dover.

Isle of Innisfree, originally launched as Prins Filip, was built in 1991 by the Boelwerf shipyard in Belgium, but only entered service the following year for RMT, a Belgian public operator that connected also the United Kingdom from Dover to Ostend. Despite several changes of owners and under various renames, the ferry has spent most of its career crisscrossing between the south-east of England and the north of France.

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

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

Afloat also adds the name of the chosen ferry, Isle of Innisfree reconnects with that of an older ship of the same name when ICG ordered its first bespoke newbuild which entered service on the Dublin-Holyhead in 1995. The order of this newbuild on Ireland – The Wales route was essential for modernization, as its predecessor B&I Line (acquired in 1991 by ICG) was a struggling Irish public company operating an aging and smaller tonnage.

Another former Innisfree Island served B&I (was chartered by ICG) and despite the change in ownership, ICG retained the famous line trading name until it was made history with the launch of the new Isle of Innisfree construction.

This first Isle of Innisfree owned by ICG built in the Netherlands served the Ireland-North Wales link until it was replaced by Inishmore Island in 1997 and which in turn was replaced by Ulysses in 2001. The cruiseferry continues to operate the Irish Sea service.

As for Innisfree Island, ICG finally sold the renowned Kaitaki after years of chartering in New Zealand, as reported by Afloat over the years. The vessel continues to operate in the southern hemisphere for the operator KiwiRail. Their InterIander service connects the northern and southern islands across the Cook Strait on the Wellington-Picton route.

A pair of larger passenger ferries and freight trains have been ordered to replace Kaitaki along with two other teammates. The first of the new constructions is expected to enter service in 2025 and the second the following year.

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

The new building will replace Ben-My-Chree which was built by Van der Giessen from Nord who was also responsible for the construction of the Innisfree / Kaitaki and Inishmore Island.

In addition, the Dutch shipyard has also built Blue Star 1 which is chartered to ICG following the transfer of Inishmore Island from the Rosslare-Pembroke route.

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