The country’s busiest vehicle service is provided by Shannon Ferries Ltd, who link Tarbert (Co. Kerry) and Killmer (Co. Clare). The company was formed by six families on either side of the river who wanted to avoid the 137km road journey through Limerick city to the other side of the river and introduced this 20 minute ferry crossing.
The service was inaugurated in 1969 by Shannon Heather which was specially built in Dartmouth (England) for the company, and with a space for 30 cars and 250 passengers it was obviously believed there would be good demand from the outset.
Ten years later a second ferry was introduced when a larger vessel with capacity for 44 cars and 300 passengers was ordered from Bowling and was named Shannon Willow.
The service continued to grow and in 1995 the company took delivery of the Shannon Dolphin, built in Appledore with space for 52 cars and 350 people. The service remained a two ship route with the three vessels remaining at the Killmer base until Shannon Heather was sold to Passage East Ferries in 1997.
Soon after another ship was ordered from Appledore and in 2000 Shannon Breeze came into service with space for 60 cars. Shannon Willow was then laid up until purchase by Lough Foyle Ferries in 2003. Shannon Dolphin and Shannon Breeze operated side by side most of the day, and at off peek periods one vessel provides a shuttle service.