Irish Ferries owner secures European finance of €155m

Funds being used to finance two ships, one of which entered service on Tuesday

Andrew McDowell (l), European Investment Bank vice president and Eamonn Rothwell, chief executive of Irish Continental Group. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography

Andrew McDowell (l), European Investment Bank vice president and Eamonn Rothwell, chief executive of Irish Continental Group. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography

 

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing the company behind Irish Ferries with €155 million to finance two ships.

Irish Continental Group (ICG) will increase passenger and cargo capacity on its routes to Ireland while also replacing older and smaller vessels in a bid to reduce emissions from its fleet.

One of the ships the EIB is helping to finance is the WB Yeats, which made its maiden voyage from Dublin to Holyhead on Tuesday morning. A second cruise ferry is under construction.

The EIB’s backing of the ferry group is the first support approved under its green shipping financing initiative that supports investment to help improve fuel efficiency.

The WB Yeats, which can transport 1,800 passengers, 300 cars and 165 trucks, was partly financed using €75 million from the EIB. It is due to begin sailing on the Dublin to Holyhead route.

The second ship, expected to be completed in 2020, will likely transport 1,800 passengers and crew, 1,526 cars or 300 trucks.

Speaking at an announcement made on the WB Yeats, Eamonn Rothwell, ICG’s chief executive, said that “significant” investment is required to expand the company’s fleet.

“The €155 million financing facilities agreed with the EIB, alongside financing from leading Irish and international banks, for the two new cruise ferry ships, demonstrates the EIB’s commitment to support transformational corporate investment such as this in Ireland,” he said, adding that the WB Yeats ship will move to service the Dublin to Cherbourg route “in the coming months”.

The WB Yeats incorporates a technology to help reduce sulphur oxide pollution and has ballast water systems to meet known future environmental regulations.

Largest cruise ferry

A second vessel for which the EIB is providing €80 million will be the largest cruise ferry in the world in terms of vehicle capacity and provide Irish Ferries with an effective 50 per cent increase in peak freight capacity.

“Shipping connections are crucial for Ireland and the European Investment Bank is pleased together with ICG to support two new ships that will both transform maritime transport to and from this country and cut harmful emissions,” said EIB vice president Andrew McDowell.

“The €155 million long-term EIB loans will support €309 million of new investment in best in class vessels that will serve Irish routes for years to come.”

The EIB’s green shipping loan is backed by a European Union debt instrument and the European fund for strategic investments. The EIB has recently been an increasingly active supporter of Irish renewable energy projects. In May 2018, the bank confirmed funding of €79.5 million for the Oweninny wind farm in Co Mayo. It has also supported ESB’s electric car charging infrastructure and Eirgrid’s east-west interconnector.

Climate-related investment has become a formal priority for the bank, which has invested over €130 billion globally in the sector, thus supporting more than €600 billion in climate related investment.

The bank has also supported large infrastructure projects in the past number of years. In 2009 it agreed €260 million financing for Dublin Airport’s Terminal Two project. In 2014, it agreed to give €150 million to Luas Cross City.