Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries is a maritime transport company that operates passenger and freight services on routes between Ireland, Britain and Continental Europe, including Dublin PortHolyhead; Rosslare Europort to Pembroke as well as Dublin Port-Cherbourg and Rosslare to Cherbourg and Roscoff in France

Irish Ferries Ltd
IndustryTransportation & Tourism
PredecessorB&I Line; Irish Continental Line
HeadquartersDublin, Ireland
Number of locations
Dublin Port, Ireland, Holyhead Port, Wales, Rosslare Europort, Ireland, Pembroke Dock, Wales, Cherbourg, France & Roscoff, France
Area served
United Kingdom, Ireland & France.
Key people
Eamonn Rothwell, CEO, Andrew Sheen Managing Director
ServicesPassenger & vehicle transportation, Freight transportation;
ParentIrish Continental Group
DivisionsIrish Ferries; Eucon
SubsidiariesIrish Ferries Freight; Dublin Ferryport Terminals; Belfast Container Terminal

The company is a division of the Irish Continental Group (ICG) which trades on the Irish Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. ICG also owns the Eucon container line which operates vessels on routes operating between Ireland and the continent.

Irish Ferries' flagship, MV Ulysses, is currently the largest ROPAX ferry operating on the Irish Sea and when launched in 2001 was the world's largest car ferry in terms of car-carrying capacity. Other ships in the fleet include MS Isle of Inishmore, MV W.B. Yeats and the fast ferry MV Dublin Swift (preceded by HSC Jonathan Swift, which operated until 2018). The company also charters in a ro-pax vessel, MS Epsilon. The company used to charter MV Kaitaki which was sold to Interisland Line and Pride of Bilbao, but sold her to St. Peter Line in 2013, who renamed her Princess Anastasia. The company have one additional ship is under construction - the vessel was ordered in January 2018 for a 2020 delivery and will replace the Ulysses on the Dublin - Holyhead route. The Ulysses will then replace the Epsilon, the company's economy ship.[1]


Irish Continental Line was formed in 1973 as a joint venture between Irish Shipping, Fearnley & Eger and Swedish company Lion Ferry.[2] It originally operated on the Rosslare–Le Havre route with the 547 berth, 210 car ferry Saint Patrick.[3] When Irish Shipping went into liquidation in 1984, Irish Continental Line was sold off in a management buyout and emerged as Irish Continental Group.

In 1992, ICG took over the British and Irish Steam Packet Company Limited, a nationalised company which traded under the name B + I Line and operated ferry services between Dublin and Holyhead and between Rosslare and Pembroke Dock.


As part of its offer to buy B&I Line, management at ICG undertook to invest in replacing what was an ageing fleet. Over the following decade, a programme of fleet renewal was undertaken involving investment of €500 million to create what was described as the most modern ferry fleet in western Europe (1).

New vessels were built such as Ulysses, Isle of Innisfree (now on charter in New Zealand as Kaitaki), Isle of Inishmore and a fast ferry Jonathan Swift, all for service on its Ireland–UK routes. As a result, the company put itself in a position to attract increased passenger and freight business, influenced by the modern facilities and improved reliability of each vessel and the extra capacity that was available on board.

On 31 May 2016, ICG announced that it had entered into an agreement with the German company Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft to build a cruise ferry MV W.B. Yeats at a contract price of €144 million. The new cruise ferry will accommodate 1,885 passengers and crew, with 435 cabins and with capacity for 2,800 lane metres of freight (165 freight vehicles) plus an additional dedicated car deck with capacity for 300 passenger cars.[4] Summer 2018 bookings for the new ferry were cancelled due to delays in its delivery.[5]


In 2001, the newly completed vessel Ulysses was awarded the title 'Most Significant Newbuild – Ferry' by Lloyds List Cruise & Ferry.[6]


Irish Ferries was at the centre of a bitter industrial relations controversy in 2005 after the company’s managing director, Eamonn Rothwell replaced almost 500 staff with lower-paid migrant workers through an outsourcing arrangement.


In 2005, Irish Ferries began to re-register its fleet under flags of convenience[7][8], enabling the company to save approximately €11.5 million[9] by replacing crew with agency staff. As of February 2018, all vessels owned by Irish Ferries or Irish Continental Group are registered in either the Bahamas or Cyprus

Ship Built Entered Service Route Crossing Times Gross Tonnage Notes Flag Image
Isle of Inishmore19971997Rosslare - Pembroke Dock4 hours34,031 GTCarrying up to 2,200 passengers and 855 cars.Cyprus
Ulysses20012001Dublin - Holyhead3 hours 15 minutes50,938 GTOne of the largest ro-pax ferry currently operating on the Irish Sea, carrying up to 1,875 passengers and 1,342 cars.Cyprus
Epsilon20112014Dublin - Holyhead
Dublin – Cherbourg
3 hrs 25 minutes
19 hours
26,375 GTOperating Dublin - Holyhead (Weekdays) and Dublin to Cherbourg (Weekend)Italy
Dublin Swift20012018Dublin – Holyhead1 hour 49 minutes8,403 GTCan only operate in calm weather. Carrying up to 820 passengers and 220 cars. Cyprus
W.B. Yeats20182019Dublin - Cherbourg50,400 GTCarrying up to 1,800 passengers, with 440 cabins; 300-car deck and 165 freight vehicles (or additional cars)Cyprus

Former ships

ShipYears in serviceGross Register TonnageStatus as of 2019
Saint Patrick1972–19827,819 GRT [10]In 1982 renamed the St. Colum 1 and transferred to Belfast Car Ferries.[11] Scrapped as EXPRESS P at Alang, India in August 2005
Saint Killian
Saint Killian II
7,125 GRT
10,256 GRT
Scrapped in Alang, India in 2007
Saint Patrick II1982–19977,984 GRTSince 2002 sailing as C.T.M.A. Vacancier for Coopérative de transport maritime et aérien
Thomas Wehr19927,628 GRT
Pride of Bilbaodid not operate for Irish Ferries37,799 GRTChartered to P&O Ferries. Sold to St. Peter Line in 2014.
Isle of Innisfree1995-200222,365 GTFrom 2002 chartered out as Pride of Cherbourg, Stena Challenger, Challenger and Kaitaki. Sold to Interislander in 2017.
Isle of Inishmore
Isle of Inishturk
6,807 GRTSince 1997 sailing as Madeleine for Coopérative de transport maritime et aérien.
Normandy1998–200717,043 GTsold to Equinox Offshore Accommodation and chartered to the Morocco-based FerriMaroc in 2008. Scrapped at Alang, 2012.
Jonathan Swift1999–20185,989 GTsold to Balearia Eurolineas Maritimas, Denia, Spain and renamed Cecilia Payne
Oscar Wilde2007-201931,914 GTSold to MSC and reflagged to Cyprus


  1. Hughes, Owen (2 January 2018). "Irish Ferries to build world's largest cruise ferry for Holyhead to Dublin route". northwales. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  2. Smith, P.C. (2012). Offshore Ferry Services of England and Scotland: A Useful Guide to the Shipping Lines and Routes. Pen & Sword Books Limited. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-84884-665-4. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  3. "Irish Ferries". Irish Ferries Enthusiasts Group. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  4. O'Brien, Ciara (1 June 2016). "Irish Continental Group to spend €144m building cruise ferry". Irish Times. Dublin. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  5. Ó Conghaile, Pól. "Irish Ferries cancels all summer sailings on new WB Yeats ferry". Irish Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  6. ‘Irish Ferries – An Ambitious Voyage’ by Miles Cowsill and Justin Merrigan
  7. "Flying the flag of greed". The Irish Times. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  8. "Irish Ferries flies flag of convenience". Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein. 15 July 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  9. "Irish Ferries dispute finally resolved after bitter stand-off". EurWORK. 20 December 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  10. "EXPRESS P - 7302885 - RO-RO/PASSENGER SHIP -". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 March 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


  • Cowsill, Miles; Merrigan, Justin (2013). Irish Ferries: An Ambitious Voyage. Ramsey, Isle of Man: Ferry Publications. ISBN 9781906608606.
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