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Irish Continental Group plc, , trading as Irish Ferries, is a quoted Irishmarker Ferry operator. The company operates on the Dublin Portmarker (North Wall) - Holyheadmarker route, and from Rosslare Europortmarker to Roscoff, Cherbourgmarker, and Pembrokemarker.

The company's flagship, the Ulysses, is the world's largest car ferry in terms of car-carrying capacity. Other ships in the fleet include the Isle of Inishmore, Oscar Wilde and the fast ferry HSC Jonathan Swift (aka Dublin Swift). Irish Continental's chief executive is Eamonn Rothwell. Its shares are traded on the Irish Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange.

The company also charters out two vessels, Pride of Bilbao and Kaitaki to P&O Ferries and Interisland Line, respectively. They also own the Eucon container line who operate a number of vessels.


The company was formed in 1973 as a joint venture between Irish Shipping Limited,Fearnley & Eger and Swedish company Lion Ferry. Originally called Irish Continental Line, it first operated on the Rosslare - Le Havre with the St. Patrick. When Irish Shipping went into liquidation in 1984, ICL was sold off in a management buyout and took on its current name.

In 1992, Irish Ferries took over the British and Irish Steampacket Company Limited, a nationalised company which traded under the name B & I Line and operated ferry services between Dublin - Holyhead as well as Dublin - Liverpool.

New vessel for French service

Irish Ferries took delivery of the 1989 - built MS Kronprins Harald from the Norwegianmarker shipping company Color Line in September 2007. The ship was renamed MS Oscar Wilde and is currently in operation between Rosslare Europort - Cherbourg and Roscoff. She entered service in December 2007 on the Dublin - Holyhead line, then the Rosslare - Pembroke Dock and finally to her selected route, Rosslare - Cherbourg and Rosslare-Roscoff. Instead of receiving the traditional white hull of Irish Ferries, the ship maintained the blue hull of Color Line.


On the 23 February 2004, Irish Ferries announced that the firm could close over a dispute about a cost-cutting plan if it was not resolved soon. Director of Human Resources Alf McGrath announced the lay-off of 600 staff in the following few days. Also announced was the suspension of the swift ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, the Rosslare-Pembroke service, and the Rosslare route to Cherbourg and Roscoff.

On the 24 March 2005 it became known that, according to SIPTU, a contractor working for Irish Ferries was paying a Filipina woman just over €1 an hour to work as a beauty therapist on board the Isle of Inishmore. Salvacion Orge had just begun working as a beauty therapist on the ferry, but the company ended her contract by closing down the service following queries about the wages she was being paid. She refused to disembark from the vessel. A meeting took place on the 29 March 2005 and after two hours of negotiation between her management and the trade union SIPTU, Ms. Orge was granted €24,000. The crew on board the ferry also made a collection for her totalling around €1,000. The next day she flew from Dublin to the Philippinesmarker and was reunited with her three teenage children.

On the 19 September Irish Ferries offered voluntary redundancy packages to its 543 seafaring workers on its Irish Sea services on the Dublin-Holyhead and Rosslare-Pembroke routes.The firm states they couldn't continue to operate with high fuel costs and increasing competition from rival shipping operators and low-cost airlines. The statement went on to say the situation had deteriorated this year with a 9% drop in the Irish Sea car passenger market and rises of up to 50% in the cost of fuel. The decision by Irish Ferries to outsource crewing on its Rosslare to Francemarker routes earlier this year led to a strike and demonstrations in France.

In late November 2005, the outscourcing of the crewing of two Irish Ferries vessels commenced and the contractors employees came on board. This led to a standoff between the management and the Irish Ferries crew and an intense political debate in Ireland.

On the 9th December 2005 a nationwide day of protest was called by the Irish Council of Trade Unions against the company's actions. Over 100,000 people were said to have participated, including 40,000 in Dublin. The protest stopped all public transport for over four hours.

The dispute was ultimately resolved via the Irish Labour Realtions Commission with a legally binding agreement reached between the company and the trades unions involved.


Ship Built Entered service Route Gross Tonnage Notes
1997 1997 Rosslare Europortmarker - Pembroke Named after Inishmoremarker
1999 1999 Dublinmarker - Holyheadmarker Named after author Jonathan Swift.
MV Ulysses 2001 2001 Dublinmarker - Holyheadmarker The world's largest ferry in terms of car-carrying capacity and named after Ulysses .During the January 2006 refit, the MV Ulysses was re-flagged and now flies the Cypriotmarker flag, registered in Limassolmarker.
MS Oscar Wilde 1987 2007 Rosslare Europortmarker - Cherbourgmarker
Rosslare Europortmarker - Roscoff
Replaced MS Normandy.

Named after author Oscar Wilde.

Ships under charter to other companies

Ship Under charter to Built Purchased by Irish Ferries Route Tonnage1 Notes
MS Kaitaki Interisland Line 1995 1995 Picton - Wellingtonmarker Sailed for Irish Ferries as Isle of Innisfree 1995 - 2001
MS Pride of Bilbao P&O Ferries 1986 1993 Portsmouth Harbourmarker - Bilbaomarker
1May be specified in gross tonnage (GT) or gross register tons (GRT).

Former ships

Ship Years in service Gross Register Tonnage Status as of 2008

1978 - 1981
1982 - 1997

Scrapped in Alangmarker, Indiamarker, 2007
1982 - 1997 Since 2002 sailing as C.T.M.A. Vancancier for Coopérative de transport maritime et aérien
MS Normandy 1998 - 2007 sold to Equinox Offshore Accommodation and currently chartered to the Morocco-based Ferrimaroc


  1. Fakta om Fartyg: M/S OSCAR WILDE i Fredericia 10/10-2007, retrieved 12. 10. 2007

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