Ferry Business - Autumn/Winter 2017

International Cruise & Ferry Review Ferry Business INTERVIEW 78 Irish Ferries’ new passenger vessel is scheduled to start service on the Irish Sea in July 2018 hile many UK mainland Europe ferry operators are concerned about Brexit and what it means for trading conditions, one company is looking to future growth, even inking its confidence with an order for a new passenger vessel. Britain is Ireland’s largest trading partner by volume, accounting for 36% of the total volume of overall exports so naturally, the result of the Brexit vote came as a shock across the Irish Sea. Despite this, Irish Continental Group (ICG) is confident that whatever happens, it will react in an efficient and profitable way. In early 2017, ICG reported earnings before interest, tax and other items of €83.5 million (US$98 million) for the year ending 2016 – up almost 11% on 2015, and a new record for the group. ICG’s ferry division, Irish Ferries, is the island nation’s leading maritime transport group. The company operates a schedule of up to 16 daily vessel departures between the freight and tourism hubs of Dublin and Holyhead, as well as between Rosslare Europort and Pembroke Dock in South Wales, and routes to Continental Europe through Cherbourg and Roscoff in France. ICG’s container and terminal division incorporates container shipping operator Eucon, Dublin Ferryport Terminals and Belfast Container Terminal. This network plays a key role in connecting Ireland with its primary trading partners the UK, as well as Continental Europe, and Irish Ferries considers itself to be a proud partner in the strategic development of these trade routes. Andrew Sheen, managing director of Irish Ferries, says the past 12 months have been a very positive period for Irish Ferries. “In addition to growing its freight and car carryings, Irish Ferries also made some changes to its fleet structure, with a significant acquisition and a disposal,” he says. “In May 2016, the company purchased the high-speed craft Westpac Express and agreed to continue her charter to Sealift (Military Sealift Command). The transition was managed with the change of head owners and head charterers going smoothly overnight so that the vessel could continue its operation in Naha, Okinawa.” More recently, Irish Ferries completed the sale of passenger ferry Kaitaki. “The vessel had been on long-term charter to its now owners Kiwi Rail since 2005, operating on New Zealand’s Interislander service across Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton,” Sheen explains. “As the Isle of Innisfree, the ship was the first newbuild undertaken by ICG in 1995, as part of a four-ship building programme over a five-year period. She was followed soon after by the larger Isle of Inishmore and then by the high-speed craft Andrew Sheen tells Justin Merrigan that Ireland’s Irish Ferries is well prepared to meet whatever challenges may emerge for Britain’s closest trading neighbour Irish Ferries is ready for life post-Brexit