Forty years ago this year, in June 1973, the direct passenger car ferry service between Ireland and France now operated by Irish Ferries began operation. Managed by the then Irish Continental Line – subsequently joined by B&I Line under the Irish Ferries flag – the route was serviced by the passenger ferry vessel St Patrick, which had been built in Bremerhaven, Germany exclusively to service the route.
Initially, sailings operated between Rosslare and Le Havre. Later, services to Cherbourg and between Cork and Le Havre were added. Subsequently, because of the longer sailing time involved, services to/from Le Havre and Cork were discontinued. In time, a route to the French port of Roscoff was added to the schedule allowing Irish holidaymakers easier access to their favourite destinations along the west coast of France.
Today, direct services from Rosslare to Cherbourg and Roscoff continue to play an important part in Irish Ferries operations. Serviced by the vessel Oscar Wilde, the service operates year-round on a three sailings per week schedule and carries in excess of 200,000 passengers annually.
In business terms, the service makes a significant contribution to the economic welfare of Wexford and the South East generally, bringing benefit to accommodation and hospitality providers and others within the retail and services sector throughout the region. In addition, it plays a pivotal role in underpinning Rosslare Europort’s status as an international ferry terminal through which substantial numbers of passengers and freight units pass each year.
Tony Kelly, Irish Ferries Marketing Director, said: “Over the past four decades, our services to France have made a significant contribution towards building Ireland’s links with communities throughout Europe, especially within France, Germany and the Benelux countries.
“In trade, education, cultural affairs and in many other aspects of life, the connection that we have provided between Ireland and the mainland of Europe has been one of the key elements in Ireland’s development as a leading EU member state.”