No.11 Ferry: The dockers’ taxi returns

Dublin dock workers being collected in Ringsend. Courtesy of Shane O’Neill Photography.

By Kathrin Kobus

The year was 1984 and the opening of the East link Bridge meant the end for the ‘Dockers’ taxi’ – the ferry service crossing the river, 35 years ago.

This February the service will resume with the No.11 ferry salvaged by Richie Saunders, a former coxswain on the ferry. Or as Jim Murray from the Irish Nautical Trust said during the launch, “He (Richie) dragged it home to his garage.” Something Richie denies. “I certainly didn’t keep it in my garage.”

A bit of banter during the short speeches on board the MV Cill Airne before he got back on board with Jim Murray and Lord Mayor Nial Ring, plus other representatives from Dublin Port and the DCC.

What the chairman of St. Patrick’s Rowing club definitely did do, was take care of the boat after its services were no longer needed to shuttle dock workers from north to south and vice versa.

The Dublin Port Company bought the boat back in 2016 and restored it for €300,000 in a joint venture between the company and Dublin City Council.

The saying, “You can’t step into the same river twice,” was perhaps in the Lord Mayor’s thoughts when he said, “The ferry will be returning to a very different Dublin than the one she left, but I have no doubt that a new generation of Dubliners will enjoy this very welcome addition to the city just the same…  Dublin City Council and Dublin Port are to be commended for their energy, foresight and commitment to bringing back this iconic piece of Dublin history.”

He also recalled the beginning of the ferry service, thanks to the Royal charter signed off by the English monarch Charles II in 1665.

Eamon O’Reilly, Chief Executive for Dublin Port Company underlined the importance of bringing the iconic ferry back. “There are those in nearby Ringsend, Irishtown, East Wall and further afield who will remember catching the ferry to work, and I have no doubt her return will bring back fond memories for many. There is also a new generation living and working in the port and Docklands, and I am confident that the No. 11 Liffey ferry will create new traditions and memories on the river in the years to come. I would encourage everyone in the city to support the service, knowing that this will, in turn, help the Irish Nautical Trust in its work to train and create employment opportunities for young people in the maritime industry.”

In practice, this means, that 8-10 young adults from the inner city and docklands areas are offered a six-month long opportunity to gain practical marine experience and a formal qualification accredited by the Irish Sailing Association.

They will be learning how to drive the vessel, skippering, boat maintenance, repairs – the essentials of a seaman’s work from experienced and now retired seamen.

After the blessing, the No.11 made its first trip over to Sir John Rogerson’s Quay on the South Side. The official route is from the 3Arena to Sir John Rogerson’s Quay to MV Cill Airne at North Wall Quay and back. There are 18 bench seats, nine on each side and no standing room as it used to be. The dockers’ taxi is back for a short cut across the river rather than via the East Link or Samuel Beckett Bridge. 

The regular ferry service will begin Monday 11th February and run weekdays between 7am-7pm. The fee for one three-minute crossing is set at €2, Leap Card and cash accepted. All fares will contribute to the overall funding of the training programme.