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Electric canal barge sets sail with a grand plan

AS new businesses go, its owners will be determined to keep this one afloat.

Ireland's first electrically-powered passenger barge was officially launched at Dublin Port yesterday.

A replica of a 1920s Guinness Grand Canal barge, its operators hope the MV Cadhla will prove a hit among tourists and theatre-goers.

It will provide tours from Charlemont Luas station, near Ranelagh, to the new Grand Canal Theatre using the Grand Canal, which was built to serve the famous brewery.

With a full kitchen and bar, the barge will also offer dinner cruises, while operators plan to run the service to the Guinness Storehouse in the future once more of the canal is dredged.

The barge, which will start operating in April, cost almost €1m to build and is powered by special batteries worth €100,000 which are charged overnight. A diesel-powered barge would emit 170 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, but MV Cadhla will produce just 22 tonnes. The craft has seating for 48 passengers.

"It's been two-and-a-half to three years in the design process," City Canal Cruises chief Sam Field-Corbett said of the ship. "It arrived from the Netherlands and was designed from plans of the old Guinness supply barge.

"The Dutch are no strangers to these tour boats, and there's a great tradition in Birmingham and Manchester, but this hasn't existed before in Dublin."

At the launch, organisers promised that the new business would provide an unique experience. Before setting off on its maiden journey, four-year-old Keela Rigby, Mr Field-Corbett's niece, whom the ship is named after, cracked a bottle of champagne across its bows.

"May you be beautiful, may you be strong and may you live happy ever after," she said as the vessel set sail.

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City Canal Cruises received financial support for the project through Dublin City Enterprise Board, who have taken shares in the boat, as well as help from Failte Ireland and Waterways Ireland.

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