Despite the withdrawal of P&O’s Larne-Troon freight service, the seasonal high-speed passenger/car link between the two ports continues with the 91m catamaran Express (1998/5,902gt, pictured) advertised to offer twice daily return crossings from 25 March to 3 October. Passage time is two hours in each direction, with the 900-passenger/220-car craft, first moved to the Irish Sea in 2005 after five years running between Portsmouth and Cherbourg, also making a middle of the day return trip from Larne to Cairnryan.
The demise of the freight link was as sudden as it was unexpected. Norcape (1979/14,087gt), moved to the route last July, had anchor winch problems and then ran aground near the entrance to Troon Harbour in late November 2011 with P&O first announcing suspension of sailings while repairs were completed before confirming on 8 December that the service was being withdrawn with Norcape sold for scrap.After first running on the Irish Sea as B&I Line’s Tipperary, the Japan-built vessel became Norcape in 1988 before operating the North Sea Ferries freight route between Ipswich and Rotterdam. A long spell on the Hull-Zeebrugge route followed before Norcape returned to the Irish Sea.