BALLYCASTLE - CAMPBELTOWN
Fresh moves to re-establish a ferry service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle took a step forward today when Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson announced to Parliament that a new economic appraisal of the route is to be undertaken.
Following talks with his Northern Ireland counterpart Nigel Dodds MP, Mr Stevenson said that Ministers have agreed to jointly fund work into the case for restoring the service using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) system.
The Transport Minister said:
"After years of no movement on a Campbeltown-Ballycastle service, I am delighted to announce that I have agreed with Northern Ireland Minister Nigel Dodds to carry out a fresh economic appraisal of the route.
"Communities on both sides of the water have campaigned long and hard for the reinstatement of this service, believing it would bring economic and tourism benefits to the local communities involved and Scotland more widely.
"This appraisal will examine that case.
"Both Governments are in agreement that the previous appraisals carried out in 2000-01 are now too old to be of any practical use in assessing the case for reintroducing the service, or estimating the associated costs and benefits involved. A new appraisal now will allow us to re-examine the economic viability of the route.
"The STAG appraisal will be completed this summer, and at that stage, we will agree with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive, the next steps to be taken.
"The Scottish Government has set aside funding within the budget announced by John Swinney last month for a Campbeltown - Ballycastle ferry service, and we remain absolutely committed to doing all we can to progress this for the local communities involved."
The STAG appraisal of a Campbeltown-Ballycastle ferry service will be completed by summer 2008.
During the First Minister's visits to Belfast on 18/19 June, and at the British Irish Council on 16 July, Northern Ireland Ministers indicated their willingness to work with the Scottish Government to consider ways in which the project might be taken forward. The Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to examine the case for restoring the ferry service.
Since then officials from both administrations have discussed joint working arrangements for taking the project forward. The Transport Minister has discussed with his counterpart in Northern Ireland, Nigel Dodds MLA MP, at the end of November. During that discussion, it was agreed that a fresh economic appraisal, using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) should be undertaken.
This STAG appraisal will allow both Governments to assess the economic viability of the route. It will also allow us to identify the preferred ferry service option, together with the key terms of a service specification, which might be used for a future tender exercise, and a detailed review of the vessel availability.
OSCAR WILDE - departed on her first sailing from Rosslare to Cherbourg on November 30 at 16:00. The company issued the following press release:
By coincidence, the first sailing takes place exactly 107 years to the day since the death of Oscar Wilde in Paris on 30th November 1900.
Considered to be one of the most luxurious vessels of its type, the OSCAR WILDE was purchased by Irish Ferries last January at a cost of EUR45million. Since then, it has spent some weeks in a shipyard in Denmark where a number of new facilities, interior styling improvements and technical modifications were carried out in preparation for its introduction on Ireland/France routes. These improvements bring total investment in the new vessel to over EUR50 million.
Work carried out included the construction of two new state of the art 55-seat cinemas, the restyling of restaurants, bistros, lounge bars, children's play areas and other passenger facilities in themes that will reflect the link with OSCAR WILDE. This included a major upgrade to the main restaurant - the Left Bank Brasserie. Other items included the creation of a new hair and beauty salon, revamping of the main reception area, the provision of 130 new reclining seats, the fitting of new passenger information signs, the re-branding of the vessel in Irish Ferries livery and the installation of an extra bow thruster.
A formal renaming ceremony will take place in Dublin in the New Year.Previously owned by Norwegian ferry operator Color Line, for whom it serviced the Baltic Sea route between Oslo and Kiel under the name
KRONPRINS HARALD, the 31,914 tonnes OSCAR WILDE was built in Turku, Finland in 1987. Substantially larger and significantly more luxurious than the vessel it replaces [NORMANDY], it is the third vessel in the Irish Ferries fleet whose name has been inspired by a leading figure from the world of Irish literature.
With sleeker lines and excellent sea going qualities, it will have a faster speed of 21.5 knots (delivered by four more powerful engines) delivering a saving of one hour on current crossing times. With eleven decks, it will carry up to 1,458 passengers and 580 cars - an increase of 160 cars/40%. Its extra vehicle lane metres (1,220 versus 645) will be reflected in significantly greater freight vehicle capacity (62 units versus 43). Other good news for car and freight drivers alike is the fact that cars will have their own deck separate from the freight deck.
On board, passengers will be impressed with the range and quality of cabins. They include 2, 3, 4 and 5-star cabins, all located above the waterline and all with their own en-suite facilities. Accommodation in 2 and
3-star cabins includes two and four bed units, available with/without window. Overnights are made even more comfortable thanks to fewer bunk beds and more beds positioned at floor level.
In the more luxurious 4-star cabins, where two and four bed options are available, passengers will enjoy the added luxury of a television, mini bar, fruit basket, trouser press and hairdryer. These features are replicated in top-of-the-range 5-star suites equipped with double beds.
Personalised cabin service and inclusive waiter service breakfast also forms part of the 5-star service. Good news for parents is that baby cots can be accommodated in all 3, 4 and 5-star cabins.
Commenting, Irish Ferries Marketing Director, Tony Kelly said 'With its new name and modern on-board facilities, the 'OSCAR WILDE' presents us with wide-ranging opportunities to re-brand and revitalise our
Ireland/France service in a manner that will have very positive benefits in the future'.
'Bigger, better and faster than the vessel it will replace, with greater car and freight capacity, more berths and a wider choice of stylish cabin accommodation, the 'OSCAR WILDE' will bring new standards of comfort and luxury to our long established Ireland - France service', Mr. Kelly said.
ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY
BEN-MY-CHREE missed her Tuesday evening Wednesday morning round trip to permit work to be undertaken on her defective bow thruster. She has required tug assistance berthing and departing from Birkenhead, Douglas and Heysham in recent weeks.
CFF SEINE currently on charter to Norfolk Line has been renamed EAST EXPRESS by owners ASP Ship Management of Glasgow.
The maintenance of the SOLWAY HARVESTER has cost Manx taxpayers £57,000 since the scallop dredger sank off the east coast of the Island nearly eight years ago.
It's been revealed a local company is paid £150 a week to act as a caretaker.
It carries out a daily inspection, tends to mooring lines, ensures the vessel is water tight and adjusts moorings and stability in times of adverse weather.
The information was revealed by Chief Minister Tony Brown in a written reply to a House of Keys question, tabled by North Douglas MHK John Houghton.
The inquest into the deaths of the seven crewmen was adjourned last January, and authorities in the Island have said the vessel will remain in Douglas until the proceedings have concluded.
Holyhead port owner Stena Line is to abandon plans for a series of huge wind turbines intended to pay for vital repairs to a breakwater.
The ferry company had floated the idea of erecting the turbines close to the breakwater to help generate the £10m it said was needed to repair the crumbling structure which experts fear could be breached by a catastrophic storm within the next few years.
But now that the company has formed a joint venture with London-based property trading and development group Conygar Investment Company for the development of surplus land along the outer Holyhead Harbour waterfront, the plans for turbines are being dropped.
Up to £100m could be invested in mixed use schemes in the Newry Beach area of the harbour in the next few years. Conygar has already acquired both the properties and land associated with Porth-y-Felin House and Soldiers Point at Holyhead and Stena Line has contributed non-operational land that the company owned in and around that area.
Architects are to be appointed to draw up detailed plans, which it is envisaged will include residential, leisure, tourist and retail facilities and also an expanded marina with associated commercial and marine engineering elements.
Business Post understands that the plans will involve a scheme for improvements to the breakwater as a public amenity and that Stena's earlier proposals to build wind turbines along the length of the breakwater as a way of funding the major investment required for repairs to the structure will be abandoned. The turbines had run into opposition from some residents who objected to the likely noise and visual intrusion.
The 50:50 Conygar Stena Line Joint Venture held its first board meeting recently at Stena House, Holyhead, before board members met Anglesey County Council leader Gareth Winston Roberts and other representatives from the council and the Welsh Assembly Government.
Vic Goodwin, Stena Line's route director for services between Wales and Ireland, who is also a board member of the new Conygar Stena Line joint venture, said: "The initial board meeting went very well. The next stage will be to prepare outline plans of the proposed development which we hope to have early in the new year.
"These plans will take account of the proposals of the Waterfront Strategy prepared by Anglesey County Council, the Welsh Assembly and the Holyhead Forward Board: we look forward to working closely with all these groups to produce an exciting proposal that will bring significant benefits to the town, the area and the region as a whole."
Coun Roberts said he believed an expanded marina offered major economic advantages. He added that the combination of strengths that Stena and Conygar brought would stand the ambitious development in good stead.
The land the joint venture wants to develop has more than half a mile of water frontage and covers about 150 acres. Port owner Stena fears a breach to the breakwater which was completed 134 years ago could cause delays and cancellations to ferry services and loss of a safe anchorage for visiting cruise ships.
SWANSEA - CORK FERRIES
TIME is running out on the re-establishment of a proposed ferry link between Cork and Swansea for next summer's season.
The loss of the service to the south-west region, in the season just past, was estimated at ?35 million.
The Port of Cork's marketing manager Captain Michael McCarthy confirmed yesterday it was "a cause of concern" that potential operators have not yet indicated that a service will be operating in 2008.
"Meetings are going on but nothing has come out of them yet," he said. "We are very anxious to re-establish the service but, the more it drags on, the more difficult it will be to market it for next year."
He said as many people decide to book their holidays in January, it was important a re-introduction of the service was signalled by the end of this month.
"The timing is getting very short. It is now getting to a critical stage," said Capt McCarthy.
However, despite the fears, he still held out hope of the service being resumed.
Talks are reportedly continuing between a Co Kerry businessman and a Channel Islands ferry company who want to re-open the route.
The 2morrow group, who operated HD Ferries between the Channel Islands and France, has drawn up a plan but its directors haven't signed off on it.
The business plan focused on a low-cost service using a ship capable of carrying up to 500 passengers, 120 cars and 25 lorry trailers.
The company was looking at a year-round service, with a five-day week service in the summer and three-day week service in winter.
Meanwhile, numerous attempts by the Irish Examiner to contact one of the former operators of the service, Thomas Hunter McGowan, have failed.
A director of Swansea Cork Ferries, he had asked the Port of Cork, reportedly for €3m, to help him finance the purchase of a new vessel.
A few weeks ago, the Port of Cork authority refused to assist on the grounds it couldn't favour one potential operator over another.
Neither of the other two parties had sought a loan from the port authority. Capt McCarthy said he was talking to other ferry operators but, as yet, none of them had expressed a positive interest in re-establishing the service.
Donal Healy, chief executive of Cork Business Association, last night urged the city council, county council and the Government to intervene and purchase a ferry.
"We're very supportive of what the Port of Cork Authority is trying to do and still hold out hope that they can pull it off. But it might be time for the Government and two local authorities to intervene.
Another year without the ferry could have a catastrophic affect on the south-west region," he said.