The laying of the keel section of the new €144 million cruise ferry being built for Irish Ferries has taken place in the shipyard in Flensberg, Germany, where the vessel is under construction.
At the ceremony were David Ledwidge, Chief Financial Officer, Irish Continental Group plc; Rüdiger Fuchs, Chief Executive, shipbuilders Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft; Andrew Sheen, Managing Director, Irish Ferries; and Captain Brian McKenna.
The 55,000 tonnes vessel – for which a name is currently being chosen by public competition – will be delivered next July. It will be the largest and most luxurious ferry ever to sail on the Irish Sea, and will enter year-round service on the Dublin-Holyhead and Ireland-France routes.
The ship will have space for 1,885 passengers and crew, 440 cabins including luxury suites with their own private balconies, and almost 3km of car deck space. Other facilities will include a Club Class lounge with direct passenger access from the car decks, á la carte and self-service restaurants, cinema, shopping mall, choice of bars and lounges, exclusive areas for freight drivers, and dedicated facilities for pets.
In accordance with shipyard tradition, a ceremonial coin specially commissioned by Irish Ferries to mark the occasion was placed within the keel section, to remain there throughout its construction to bring good luck and calm seas for the vessel.
Referring to the keel laying as the ‘official start’ of production, Irish Ferries’ Managing Director Andrew Sheen pointed to the fact that the new cruise ferry will be the largest of its kind built by the shipyard to date.
Emphasising the importance of having it delivered on time “without compromising on quality”, Andrew thanked everyone involved in its construction, stating that “marketing of the new vessel had already begun and that bookings will open within the coming month”.