The British and Irish Steam Packet Company (known as the B&I) was formed on July 27th 1836 after a group of Dublin businessmen met in the Commercial Buildings in Dame Street. On October 24th Articles of agreement were concluded between the investors, which included Arthur Guinness, James Ferrier (Transatlantic Steam Ship Company), Richard Williams and James Jameson. One of the Company’s first directors was Francis Carleton (who was also a member of the board of the City of Dublin SP Co. [1823-1924], with whom the B&I worked closely).
The company’s first ships were the wooden paddle steamers, The Devonshire, Shannon, and the City of Limerick (all 500 tons), and by December 29th, they were advertising weekly services between Dublin and London, calling at Plymouth. The company soon chartered three more vessels, the Nottingham, Mermaid and Royal William. The Duke of Cornwall joined the other vessels in 1842, sailing from the North Wall, Dublin to London altering with the City of Dublin SP’s vessels on Wednesday’s and Saturdays, calling at Falmouth and Plymouth. The Duke of Cornwall was the last wooden paddle steamer built for the company.
The directors of the B&I was one of the first company’s to invest in propeller-driven ships when they announced in 1845 that the company was investing in two auxiliary power steam vessels, the Rose and the Shamrock, which were employed on their Dublin London route. In 1850, the Foyle was added to the fleet and in 1852 and 1853 the Lady Eglinton and the Nile were added respectively. After a very short service, the Lady Eglinton and Folye were chartered for the Crimean war. The Nile suffered a tragic end when after leaving Liverpool on November 28th, 1854 in a very strong gale, she was wrecked, probably on the Godrevly Rocks, between St Ives and Porthreath.
In 1860 the company’s offices moved from Eden Quay (where the company crest may still be seen) to 46, North Wall, and also announced the purchase of a small paddle steamer, the Mars, which they ran between Waterford and Dublin. The service was abandoned in 1863, and Mars was sold to American owners. She was eventually used as a blockade-runner in the American Civil War.
In 1865, the Lady Eglington went into the yard of Messrs Walpole, Webb and Bewley of Dublin for extension (being increased by 30 feet). The same Dublin yard built two further ships for the company, the s.s. Lady Wodehouse (1865) which remained with the company until being broken up in 1897, and was followed by the Countess of Dublin in 1869
In 1870 the B&I bought the Waterford Steam Ship Company’s London service, giving them a monopoly on the route. They also acquired the Avocado (824 tons) and Cymba (654 tons) from the Waterford company.
In 1878 the company increased its capital by £20,000, and launched their last iron screw steamer, the Lady Olive (1,013 tons), she was sold to Greek interests in 1910. In the same year, the company also acquired limited liability and moved its offices to Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. In 1888 the company introduced a new development, the triple expansion engine, in the Lady Martin (1,245 tons).
With the company’s prestige secured, the company began to announce new builds every few years, including the Lady Hudson-Kikahan (1,368 tons), in 1891. The Lady Wolseley (1,462 tons) launched in 1894, the Lady Roberts (1,462 tons) in 1897 and the Lady Gwendolen (2,163 tons) in 1911. These ships were considered among the best in the UK in the years before World War I with 100 saloons, 50-second class, and steerage cabins as well as staterooms, smoking rooms, and bathrooms, and a service speed of 13 knots.
During the First World War, the company had two ships built for its Dublin-London route, the Lady Wimborne (1,542 tons), built-in Scotland, and the Lady Cloe (1,581 tons) built-in Middlesbrough, both with a capacity for 70 passengers and travelled via Falmouth and Southampton.
In 1917 the Liverpool Shipping Company was taken over by the Kylsant Royal Mail Company and renamed Coast Lines. By the end of 1917 Coast Lines owned all the shares in the B&I, as well as the City of Cork S.P. Co., the Belfast Steamship Co., Burns and Laird, the City of Dublin S.P. Co. (taken over by the B&I in 1920), Tedcastle, McCormack of Dublin (1919), the Dublin and Lancashire Steam Shipping Co (1922), and the Dundalk & Newry S.P. Co. (1926).
In 1920, the B&I decided to set up a cartage and motor haulage department in Dublin to replace the company’s horses and use it to collect and deliver the goods carried by their steamers. In 1924 they bought a fleet of six Albion trucks which were still used by the company at the outbreak of World War II. By 1930 the company had a fleet of 30 modern vehicles including a Maudsley motor omnibus. The company maintained their horse fleet in Dublin (which, between 1924 and 1942 won at least one prize each year in the RDS spring show). The 78 horses owned by the company were all known by name while those in Cork were leased. When petrol became scarce during the “Emergency” more horses were used, afterwards, they were retired, with their last horse, Smokey, retiring in 1973.
In 1923 the Lady Louth (1,870 tons) and the Lady Limerick were delivered from the Adrossan Dockyard and both took over the nightly service between Dublin and Liverpool. They had accommodation for 80 first-class and 90 steerage passengers.
On October 28th, 1926 the B&I took control of the Dundalk & Newry S.P Co Ltd.
In 1929 the Lady Munster (1,871 tons ex-Graphic) took over Dublin-Liverpool services and was joined by the Lady Connaught (1,869 tons, ex-Heroic) and was followed by the Lady Leinster (2,254 tons, ex-Patriotic), the company also took delivery of the cattle boat, Lady Meath (1,598 tons).
The worldwide economic depression of the early 1930s had no dramatic effect on Coast Lines. In 1936 the company offered a controlling interest to the new Irish Government, but they declined and B&I remained with Coastlines, a decision the government would soon regret.
In 1937 the twin-screw motor vessel Leinster (4,300 tons) was delivered from Harland and Wolfe and the Munster (4,300 tons) followed in 1938. Two new castle carriers were also delivered to the company, the Kilkenny (1,320 tons) from the Liffey Dockyard, and the Dundalk (630 tons) built by Adrossan, Scotland, both built-in 1937.
Coast Lines, being a British company had its ships committed to the European War, and shortly after the outbreak of World War II, the B&I ships were abruptly removed from their normal routes, despite being Irish registered. There was no Irish legislation to prevent the country from being deprived of its own ships, and the claim that it was an Irish company didn’t hold across the water. Eventually, Sean LeMass set up Irish Shipping to supply the country, while the Leinster was converted into a hospital ship, then a troop carrier, while both the Innisfallen sank after being bombed in Liverpool, and the Munster hit a mine off the Bar in Liverpool, both in 1940.
After the war, the company began to rebuild its fleet, with the Longford (ex-Lady Connaught) and Louth (ex-Lady Munster) entering service on the Dublin-Liverpool route. In 1948 they took delivery of the Munster, and the Leinster, (both 4,115 tons) and a new Innisfallen (3,705 tons) for the Cork-Fishguard route (the first ship to be fitted with stabilisers, or Denny Brown Stabilisers as they were known at the time).
On November 4th, Mrs Lemass named the B&I’s newest addition, the Meath (1,550 tons) built to carry cattle and sheep from Dublin to Liverpool and Manchester. In 1960 they acquired the Wicklow (600 tons) for carrying general cargo.
The 1950s and ’60s were frustrating years for the B&I, with great changes taking place in transport and the emphasis on time-saving, newer, larger and faster craft. Roll on, roll-off ferries were being introduced, a
long with container ships. The Irish Government, therefore, took over a fairly outdated fleet (most of which had been shortly after World War II) in 1965, when they bought the B&I (including the City of Cork S.P. Co) from Coast Lines, and the company became truly Irish.
The Minister for Transport, Mr Erskine Childers (who later became President) appointed a new board of directors that began to modernise the company. They ordered new car ferries, the MV Munster (5,000 tons, 1000 passengers, and 220 cars) from Norbiskrug Yard, in Pennsburg, Germany in 1968. This was followed by the Innisfallen (5,000 tons) in 1969 built in the same yard, and the Leinster (5,000 tons) built by Verolme Cork Dockyard.
The new Munster’s first sailing from Liverpool was on May 15th, 1968, and took 6hours, 30 minutes, three hours quicker than her predecessor. Meanwhile, in May 1969 the Innsifallen began operating from the new berth in Tivoli, to a new berth in Swansea, while the Leinster started on her Dublin-Liverpool route in July 1969.
The company’s freight ships were operating well in the 1970s with the Kilkenny, Tipperary and Wicklow carrying containers to and from Rotterdam and Fleetwood weekly, while the Kildare went to Liverpool and the chartered Nanomark to Le Havre.
In 1978 the company ordered a Boeing jetfoil (257 seats) for their Dublin – Liverpool route (they originally considered using a hovercraft, and even set up a sub-company called Irish Sea Hovercraft). It began services as the Cu na Mara in early 1980, taking 3hours and 10 minutes making two return trips a day. But her high operating costs, and low passenger figures combined with her poor performance in the bad Irish Sea weather lead to her services being terminated, and the vessel being sold. As of April 2002 she was still sailing in Japan as the Ginga between Niigata and the Sado Islands.
On May 22nd 1979 the M.V. Connacht (6,800 tons, 1,500 passengers and 350 cars), which had been launched the previous year had been by Verolme began a new service to Pembrooke from Cork and moved the Innisfallen to Dublin. Passenger figures for the new Pembrooke services weren’t as strong as those that were to Swansea, as Pembrooke didn’t provide the conveniences that Swansea had.
The company then started operating from Rosslare to Pembroke with a series of charted vessels, including the Viking III, and Stena Nordica. They switched the Connacht to Dublin-Liverpool and the Leinster to Cork with three sailings a week.
In 1980 the Company ordered a new Leinster (6,900 tons, 1,500passengers and 350 cars), was ordered from Verolme. She took up the Dublin-Liverpool service in July 1981 under the command of Commodore Gerald Barry, who had also been in command of the Munster, the Innsifallen, the Leinster and the Connacht on their maiden voyages.
In 1981 the company reported a loss of £7.1 million and decided it was time to rationalise their services. They had the Innisfallen cover both the Rosslare, and Cork services to Pembroke. They also started a new service to Holyhead from Dublin, but met with a lot of opposition from the Sealink owned port. On March 2nd, 1981 the Sealink staff used small boats to block the Connacht from docking at Holyhead, and they did the same to the Connacht on the 9th. The crew of the Munster then blocked Sealink’s St. David from docking in Dun Laoghaire. The dispute was eventually resolved and the service grew.
In January 1983 the company’s losses in Cork were too much, and they decided to close the Cork service, but following pressure from the Government they decided to keep it going for the summer with a chartered vessel, Silja Lines Fennia. By the end of the summer, they had lost £2 Million and the service was closed, only to be reopened by Swansea-Cork ferries a few years later. Meanwhile, the Munster was sold to Middle Eastern owners, and the company were forced to move their operations from Trafalgar Dock to Brocklebank dock by the Mersey Dock company who were loosing £1 Million a year. The last sailing to Trafalgar Dock was made by the Leinster, which also made the first trip to Brocklebank on October 18th, 1983.
The B&I’s losses continued to mount however and they agreed to share resources and revenue with Sealink in 1985 in an attempt to maximise profits. The B&I agreed to concentrate there serves on the Holyhead route with the Connacht and the Leinster on her daily Dublin – Liverpool – Dublin route.
In 1986 the company moved its Rosslare- Pembroke route to Fishguard. In was run by both companies using the Innsifallen and St. Brendan (ex-Stena Normandica) and marketed the route as Southern Seaways. The Innisfallen was then sold to Strinzis Lines, and renamed Ionian Sun, and returned to Cork with Swansea-Cork
1987 saw more trouble when all the ships were laid up for six weeks due to an officers strike, and the Sealink agreement fell apart. The B&I claimed that Sealink had broken the agreement when they operated a freight-only service to Dun Laoighre with the Stena Sailor (ex-Dundalk) when they should have used Dublin.
Losses continued to mount, with a deficit of £100 million, and the company started dropping services. The 152-year-old Dublin-Liverpool service was closed with the Connaught making the last sailing on January 6th 1988 and moved her to their new Pembroke-Rosslare route, with her making the maiden voyage on January 12th. After the season ended, she was sold to Brittany Ferries, who renamed her Duchess Anne and is still operating in the Adriatic.
The company then chartered ships for the Rosslare route, these included the St. Patrick II, The Viking, Earl Harold, the Norrona and the Cruise Muhibah which the company took a bare charter of for two and a half years and renamed the Munster.
In 1990 the government decided to privatise the company, and bids came from Irish Continental Group, P&O, and Maersk. Irish Continental took over the company on the 1st of January 1992. They chartered the Stena Nautica (20,000 tons, 1,840 passengers and 410 cars) for the Rosslare route and renamed her the Isle of Innisfree, becoming the biggest ferry on the Irish Sea.
In 1994 an order was placed with the Dutch yard, Van der Giessen-De-Noord for a 23,000ton passenger and freight vessel to replace the Innisfree. She was delivered in 1995, and the new Isle of Innisfree had the Irish Ferries logo on both sides of her funnel – the name of the B&I had vanished after 159 years
Following the winding up of Swansea Cork Ferries, John Hosford and Adrian Brentnall set up a website, â€œBring Back The Swansea Cork Ferry in April 2008, to high-light the loss of the service.
In May, it was announced that the ship a number of groups had there eye on, the Christian IV was sold to Russian interests for â‚¬13m, who renamed her the Julia.
However, the campagin continued throughout the first half of 2008, with widespread media coverage, and worldwide online publicity. When Noel Harrington was elected County Mayor of Cork – he pledged his support for the campaign, and set up a co-ordinated programme between Cork and Kerry councils and their counterparts in Wales aimed at financing the new ferry service.
By August, the campaign was being mentioned on nation radio, and by December, four possible ships, and the Port of Cork had consultants draw up a business plan, with a bank agreeing to fund 60% of the start-up costs.
In Febuary 2009, the campaign began raising funds to help purchase the Julia, after Stella Lines went into liquidation. The group set up a co-op to raise â‚¬3 million, and in the space of the first week fundraising raised â‚¬2 million. A public auction to sell the Julia was held on 26 February 2009, but no bids were made. In a second auction held on 12 March 2009 the Irish consortium made the highest bid of â‚¬6 million, but confusion surrounded the initial undertaking of â‚¬1.5 million to secure the ship and she remained unsold. No further auction was held, instead the bankrupt’s estate negotiated directly with potential buyers. In addition to the Irish consortium, Greek Halkidon Shipping Corporation and two unnamed Finnish companies were reported to have shown interest in the ship.
The West Cork Tourism Co-operative announced on 2 April 2009 that they were close to agreeing on a deal to buy the Julia. On the 7 April 2009 the West Cork Tourism co-operative shareholders, meeting in Skibbereen gave their unanimous support to the deal and elected a Board of Directors with the power to conclude the deal with the Finnish liquidator. The co-operative is setting up the new ferry company to run the service, which will be called Fastnet Line after the Fastnet Rock lighthouse off the West Cork coast. The West Cork Tourism Co-operative announced on 5 May 2009 that they will launch the new ferry service on 1 March 2010 and they are going ahead with the purchase of the Julia. Following a funding agreement with an unnamed Finnish bank, a preliminary sale agreement was signed between Fastnet Line and Julia’s owners on 15 July 2009 for an undisclosed price. The Finnish courts decided to sell the Julia and this was announced on 15 September 2009 following discussions with the creditors of Stella Lines.
Fastnet Line services started from Swansea on 10 March 2010 (following delays as a result of refit, modifications and certification taking longer than though), and from Cork on 11 March 2010, with three weekly services in each direction from September to June, and four between July and August
On 1 November 2011 the company suddenly canceled sailings, and entered into examinership. As of January 2012 its business plan was for it to become a seasonal ferry service from April 2012. The company was seeking sponsorship, with the vessel to be named by the sponsor and used as a large billboard.
However, on Thursday 2 February it was announced that the company would cease operations as the company failed to fund â‚¬1.6 million rescue package (blaming state aid rules) with the loss of 78 jobs, the Julia is currently laid up in Cork.
Swansea Cork Ferries
Cork’s Welsh connection died in 1983. Tivoli had been abandoned as a passenger ferry terminal the previous year, and whilst few regretted the ending of the connection to Pembroke Dock, the loss of ferry services to Wales provoked a demand for someone – anyone to reinstate a ferry from Cork to Swansea. Cork Harbour Commissioners contacted British Transport Docks Board at Swansea and a joint report “The Emerald Gateway” was commissioned. Existing ferry operators however favoured the short sea philosophy and were reluctant to provide what they saw as a long sea service. Cork Harbour Commissioners persisted in their efforts to get a service going. The Cork Examiner of 19th January 1984 carried the exciting news that Irish Transport Minister Jim Mitchell, had given approval to Irish Continental Line to become involved in a new terry link between Cork and Swansea
The very next morning the Cork Examiner had a very different story on its front page. Mr. Aubrey McElhatton of Irish Continental Line described the previous days Ministerial announcement as “unfortunate and premature”. In fact Mr, McElhatton said that they had not even discussed it at board level. Irish Continental did not become involved.
In 1987 three local authorities in Ireland, Cork Corporation, Cork County Council and Kerry County Council, together with West Glamorgan County Council and Swansea City Council co-operated to form a new company Swansea Cork Car Ferries Limited, and the Celtic Pride arrived at Ringaskiddy on 13th April 1987.
â€œThis is the finest ferry available anywhere,” said Mr. James McMahon, the new Company’s first Managing Director. Facilities would include a swimming pool, sauna, casino, a chamber orchestra, hairdressing salon, children’s playroom, a nursery as well as restaurants, duty free facilities, bars and the services of a resident doctor and nurse would be available on the ferry.
Indeed they were available, disappointingly the chamber orchestra turned out to be two Polish dance bands – but in 1987 no one used to British-Irish ferry travels ever-expected facilities like swimming pools or hair dressing saloons. The ship had previously been in service from Poland to Sweden as the Rogtiliti and had when introduced to the Celtic Sea a Polish crew with Irish supervisory staff including On-Board Manager (Purser), Duty Free Managers, Master at Arms, and Hostess/Receptionist
Initially there were language difficulties, as was only to be expected. The service proved exceptionally popular with the people of South Wales and Cork and Kerry but one shortcoming proved hard to overcome. The ferry had quite small and restricted vehicle decks and had a nominal capacity of 170 cars. With two car decks in full use freight could only be carried in minuscule quantities.
Because of excellent relations with Brittany Ferries the Celtic Pride operated a mid-week return service to Roseoff for Brittany Ferries in addition to its South Wales sailings. The ferry proved popular with French motorists and passengers. The coming of Swansea Cork Ferries provoked a savage price cutting war with the two established operators Sealink and B & I Line and accusations of Government subsidies and unfair advantages through using a non-EEC crew. There was also resentment over the fact that not many British or Irish nationals were being employed on the ferry; critics tended to gloss over the number of Welsh and Irish shore staff employed in offices on both sides of the sea and the employment of local dockworkers and the regional tourism benefits in both Wales and Ireland.
1988 was a repeat of the first season; again the Celtic Pride sailed to Swansea and Roscoff. The popular vessel had set standards of facilities on board, which meant that other companies were now obliged to provide similar standards. However there had been management troubles; Chief Executives had come and gone and the Company were anxious to secure a vessel with a larger car deck for 1989. The Irish Government had originally been supportive of the venture, but despite talk and promises of promises, certain guarantees of funding were too slow in materialising and so 1989 proved a blank year. No ferry, no service with the critics nodding wisely. “Told you so” was the chorus.
The Directors were most anxious to prove the critics wrong. Accordingly visits were arranged to Greece and a management structure that was to he unique evolved. May 1990 saw the blue hulled Greek owned ferry Ionian Sun arrive at Ringaskiddy. The vessel was never officially renamed but traded as the Celtic Pride II. It had a familiar shape – it was in fact the former B & I car ferry Leinster built in Cork in 1968, renamed Innisfallen (5) in 1980, sold to Strintzis Line in 1986 and was now back within sight of its birthplace, Rushbrooke.
Strintzis Lines had remodelled the ship’s interior; she now boasted many more cabins above the car decks, she had a better vehicle capacity and could carry more freight. Unfortunately it was not possible for Brittany Ferries to operate her to Roscoff given the lateness of her charter arrangements and the Ionian Sum trading as the Critic Pride II, only operated for the 1990 season for Swansea Cork Ferries. The very short season did not allow the Greek crew to acclimatise in the same way as the Polish crew on the original Celtic Pride and she failed to attain the popularity of her predecessor.
Carryings for 1990 were good; indeed both afloat and ashore the demand was for the Company to operate a longer season; some went further and demanded an all-year service. The passage from Cork to Swansea occupied ten hours; the daylight crossing from Cork proved popular with passengers who were inclined to look upon the trip as a cruise. Night crossings from Swansea gave the chance of quite a lengthy rest in bed or with a Pullman seat and arrival at a sensible hour in the morning. Many passengers appreciated not having to leave the ferry at 3 a.m.
The Celtic Pride II did not boast a chamber orchestra bur it did have a magnificent grand piano situated in the forward lounge. When the terry returned to Greece at the end of the season, it was announced that the original Celtic Pride was returning from Poland for 1991
In the ‘off season’ a strange thing happened. During a press conference being given by Sealink in Dublin a virulent attack was made on Swansea Cork Ferries and its continued existence. The rival operation suggested that Government funds, if there were any available, would he better employed building a super highway from Cork to Rosslare – this would ensure that ferries operating from the Wexford port would he more easily available to Cork and Kerry people.
A spirited answer was given in the- Evening Echo of Cork. “Why” asked that paper “is Goliath worried about David?â€ The sight of the world’s leading ferry operator railing against a one ship operation did indeed justify the Goliath and David analogue. Indeed the ‘Echo’ reminded its readers that in a previous famous encounter Goliath had lost to David.
The Celtic Pride (ex Rogtiliti) was reintroduced to Cork-Swansea with some style. The directors of the Company held a pre-sailing reception on board the ferry in Ringaskiddy on Friday 1st March 1991, and a large party of VIPs dined on board the crossing and, following an early morning arrival in Swansea, the ferry, having discharged, moved in through the entrance locks and moored in the non-tidal docks. On Saturday night (2nd March) civic representatives from Swansea attended a special dinner and reception on board. Lord Mayors, Council Chairmen and Government Ministers all combined to make it a very special occasion.
And so the Celtic Pride settled down again sailing on the Inter-City route; but there was more to come as on Friday 15th March 1991 the Brittany Ferries route between Cork and Roscoff was reopened for the 1991 season; but it was not a French ship which restarted the route. The Celtic Pride was now to operate at weekends for Brittany Ferries until May when they sent their own ferry back in service.
The 1991 season on the route between the Welsh and Irish cities proved to be a very good year. The Celtic Pride proved, a popular vessel and bookings held steady. In the autumn the Celtic Pride returned to the Roscoff-Cork run again at weekends and proved popular with Continental travellers.
Following the seasonal ending of the Breton route, several functions were held on Saturday nights on the Celtic Pride in Swansea. Bad weather struck on the very last trip of the season when she could not leave Ringaskiddy until 01.00 hours on 31st October and did not arrive in Swansea until 14.40 hours, instead ot her scheduled 08.00 hours arrival. The crew and passengers had endured a very bad crossing indeed.
The 1992 season commenced on Friday 6th March 1992. Once again the Celtic Pride was the ship to run the service and one-week after its initial voyage she sailed up the River Lee to Cork City where she berthed at the North Custom House Quay. Here Mr. Albert Reynolds T.D, the Taoiseach visited her . Many DÃ¡il members and local representatives were present and saw Mr. Reynolds unveil a plaque to mark his visit.
Competition on southern routes was intense all season. B & I Line had just introduced the Isle of Innisfree on their Pembroke Dock to Rosslare route, Sena Sealink went, as usual, operating the Stena Felicity, so the Rosslare routes certainly held the edge as regards modern ships with very much larger capacity. Perhaps it was loyalty, perhaps stubbornness, but the Celtic Pride was still experiencing heavy bookings.
Tragedy struck in August 1992 when two teenagers, a brother and sister, died in their cabin en route to Cork. They had been overcome by fumes, traced to an alteration that had been made to the venting system in a septic tank. It proved impossible to determine where and when the alteration had been made.
As a result of the accident, certain sailings had to be cancelled and in an effort to catch up with reservations the Celtic Pride sailed on at least two occasions to Pembroke Dock direct from Cork. As in 1991 a number of weekend functions were run on board the ship in Swansea. However there were no sailings to Roscoff by the Celtic Pride as Brittany Ferries had used their own tonnage all through the season. The last sailing of the year was made on a Sunday night, 1st November from Swansea to Cork. The Celtic Pride returned to her Polish owners and has since resumed her Polish name
In October 1992 the Cork Examiner carried the shock news that Swansea Cork Car Ferries Limited had been sold by its local authority owners to Strintzis Line of Greece. This was the company from whom Ionian Sun, trading as Critic Pride II, had been chartered in 1990. The news of the sale was followed immediately by a further announcement that Swansea Cork Ferries would be chartering a Strintzis ferry for 1993
So in 1993 another vessel arrived from Greece for the season. This was the Japanese built Superferry, which had been built in 1972 and originally was named the Cassiopeia for Ocean Ferry K.K. She became the IZU No. 3 in 1976 and was acquired by the Greek company in 1991 and following a brief period as the Ionian Star became the Superferry She had been extensively rebuilt before corning to Cork. Her tonnage now is 7,454 gross tons, and the passenger capacity is 1,355 with space for 550 cars.
Prior to the Superferry coming to Ringaskiddy, Strintzis had spent a lot of money on putting in extra cabins, berths and Pullman seats and a new Irish pub, Paddy Murphy’s-had been installed.
The Superferry took up service on time in March 1993. It has a much bigger capacity for vehicles, with two full width decks in contrast to its immediate predecessor. This extra capacity resulted in an immediate increase in freight carryings and the ship was given a longer season. She has proved a good sea-vessel and has extra speed to help in what is a very tight and demanding schedule.
Services continued every year until early January when Superferry was returned to Greece for her annual overhaul and was sometimes used to relieve vessels on Strintzis’ Adriatic routes.
Early in 1999, Strinzis slod Swansea-Cork ferries at a profit to an Irish business consortium headed by Briar Star Ltd, headed by Dennis Murphy and Thomas Hunter McGowan. The Superferry was retained on charter and a second route was launched between Cork and St. Malo using an ex-DFDS North Sea ship Dana Hafnia, then the Cyprus flagged Venus. The service was advertised as Cork St. Malo Ferries and sailings continued erratically until November when Venus returned to Greece and only Superferry reappeared in 2000.
The Superferry remained in Mediterranean waters in 2001, resulting in the company chartering Hellenic Mediterranean Lines’ Egnatia IIwhich reopened the route as the City of Cork, a vessel well know in Irish waters for her services between Ireland and France for Irish Ferries as the Saint Patrick II. The City of Cork got off to a bad start with crew training and safety regulation compliance problems, and was returned to her owners at the start of November, her charter not being replaced in 2002.
The company again turned to the Superferry, and Strinzis, then part of Superfast Ferries who used her during 2001 as the Blue Aegeanin Greek domestic traffic. The company restored her former name, and brought her “home” to Irish waters, when it emerged that Swansea-Cork were to become ship owners for the first time, reportedly buying the ship for 6.5million before her return in March 2002, when her sailing schedule was extended, as she no longer needed to visit Greece for her refit, and instead in 2001 went to Dublin.
In July 2006 Swansea-Cork ferries announced the sale of the M/V Superferry. Her last service was on October 7th from Cork, and later that week she set sail for Egypt, where she now operates for Namma International as Mahabbha. A replacement passenger vessel could not be found in time for the 2007 season, however HJ Lines, headed by a Welsh business man launched a short lived Ro-Ro service between the two ports using the 1980 built, Norwegian flagged Victoria, with sailings commencing in February. The service however only lasted two months and operations were wound up following the UK MCA detaining the Victoria for a week following an inspection.
October 2007 saw Swansea-Cork, and a Kerry based firm both bid to restart the route. News of a second operator being involved broke following the announcement that the Port of Cork had refused a loan of â‚¬3 million to Briar Star (owners of Swansea – Cork Ferries). Unfortunately the vessel that both consortiums were bidding on, Colour Lines’ Christian IV, would not be available until mid-summer at the earliest, due to the delayed delivery of a new building, however it was announced in May 2008 that Colour Line had sold the preferred vessel, Christian IV to Russian interests to restart Helsinki – St Petersburg services. Efforts to find a replacement vessel continued with the launch of a Cork based online campagin in May 2008 to restore the service. In January 2009 another bit was made to bring the former Christian IV to Cork, however a shortfall in funding of â‚¬3 million, and a co-op has been formed to raise the remainding capital to purchase the vessle, which it is planned to renamed the Innisfallen, with the new operators being named Fastnet Line Ltd.