A NEW challenger for the Ruler of the Irish Waves title sailed into Dublin yesterday. The 34,000 tonne Isle of Inishmore, the largest passenger ferry in northern Europe, arrived as the Irish Ferries contender on the competitive Dublin Holyhead route. It will go into service on March 3rd.
With a height of 146 feet, the ferry is three times as tall as the GPO. It is 600 feet long - the distance between O'Connell Bridge and the GPO - while, at over 90 feet, it is wider than Westmoreland Street.
From a navigational point of view, its size doesn't make much of a difference, said Capt Peter Ferguson, except that "you can do a lot more damage if you get it wrong". With room for 2,250 passengers, 855 cars and 122 lorries, the vessel's capability is almost double that of its main rival, Stena Line's HSS Superferry.
The ferry will be sold on reliability and luxury, said Mr Tony Kelly, Irish Ferries' marketing director.
The £60 million vessel yesterday made a textbook docking at its new home, having come through extensive tests in the North Sea and stormy waters on a two day sailing from its birthplace, Rotterdam. The hard bit done, however, the superferry had a problem opening the rear vehicle ramp.
After the eighth failed attempt, and under the impatient glare of newspaper photographers, it was decided that boarding would take place on the second ramp, which is used for freight traffic.
"These technical glitches unfortunately happen on a day like today, when it's her first time in, said Mr John Reilly, Irish Ferries' technical manager.
The Aran Island theme - from where the ferry gets its name - is highlighted on board with the Kilronan Motorists Club; the Currach Restaurant; the Children's Harbour, with its Galway Bay playboat; and the Dun Aengus Sky Lounge. The latter is, fittingly, on the top deck, at the same level as the bridge, and offers impressive views to port and starboard.
According to Mr Reilly, "on a rough day it's like looking over the cliff at Dun Aengus".
The ferry will make two sailings daily from Dublin, at 9.45 a.m. and 9.45 p.m., with return sailings from Holyhead at 3.45 a.m. and 3.45p.m. As part of the move, Irish Ferries' Isle of Innisfree will service the Rosslare Pembroke route from the end of March.