Irish Ferries operator Irish Continental Group (ICG) is to invest €165m in the building of a cruise ferry to service its Dublin – Holyhead route.
The ferry, which once completed will be the largest ferry in the world in terms of capacity, will be built by German company Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesselschaft (FSG).
"This investment underpins the confidence the group has in the markets in which we operate. Alongside the recent investment in the MV W.B. Yeats, it brings our total investment to €315m for these two vessels designed for our operations on the Irish Sea,” Eamonn Rothwell, CEO of ICG, said.
The cruise ferry will accommodate 1,800 passengers and crew, with capacity for 5,610 freight lane metres, providing the capability to carry 330 freight units per sailing.
Overall, it will effectively be a 50pc increase in peak freight capacity compared to the MV Ulysses.
Twenty percent of the contract price of the ferry will be paid in instalments during the construction period, with the remaining 80pc of the cost paid for on delivery of the ferry.
ICG said that it intends to utilise credit facilities to finance the cruise ferry.
It is expected that the ferry, which is scheduled for delivery before mid-2020, will replace the schedule of the MV Ulysses, which in turn will replace the currently chartered vessel MV Epsilon in the fleet. This will allow for the deployment of the W.B. Yeats, which arrives mid-2018, full-time on the direct Ireland - France route alongside the MV Oscar Wilde.
“The construction of a cruise ferry of this size will offer both additional capacity and an enhanced experience for both our tourism and freight customers. This infrastructural investment enhances "the bridge" to the UK and continental Europe that is a vital part of the continued success of Ireland's open economy,” Mr Rothwell said.
In November ICG announced that its consolidated revenues increased by 3.1pc to €288.9m year-on-year in the ten months to 31 October.