|BRISTOL CHANNEL FERRY SERVICE|
An influential shipping expert has added his support for a North Devon ferry service from Ilfracombe to South Wales after saying it was "inevitable."
Professor Alf Baird, head of the Maritime Research Group at Edinburgh's Napier University, has joined other leading British academics to back proposals for a multi-million pound 45-minute fast catamaran service to Swansea.
Supporters have also been given the thumbs up by leading Welsh academic Professor Brian Morgan, who undertook a detailed analysis of the financial and business plans and said they were "very robust."
Momentum for the twin commercial link between North Devon and South Wales plus Penarth to Minehead have been spurred on after a business plan, plus all the facts and figures were set before top experts - and not found wanting.
"The routes are inevitable!" said Professor Baird.
"Many historic ferry routes are being re-started due to rising road transport costs and worsening congestion, aided by ongoing technological advances in ferry design."
Organisers behind the scheme have produced hard data to support the project, looking at target populations and the number of passengers already using ferry services in other parts of the UK and around the world.
Chris Marrow, who is leading the project, said it was a definite milestone and although there had been a great deal of market research in the past, this was the first time the data had been properly analysed to produce hard figures.
"Our business plan is now being finalised," he added.
"A company has already been formed, the financing of the first vessel is being actively discussed with the banks and equity partners are being sought.
"The experts have endorsed the principle, verified the calculations and said the business plan is robust, so this puts us in a very strong position in terms of getting funding and means we will be taken that much more seriously by potential investors."
The potential of the service has clearly impressed. Mr Marrow gave one Scottish route as an example of how well used ferries could be:
"On the three main routes crossing the Clyde, you have got three-and-a-half million passengers per year," he said.
"When you add the target population of that area together, it is actually lower than that of South Wales, Devon and Somerset."
Although not so unrealistic as to suggest such figures were achievable in the foreseeable future, over "an extended period" of several years Mr Marrow said he thought the new Bristol Channel service could still see in the region of one million people climbing aboard.
Potential investors, equity partners or anyone with an interest can contact Chris Marrow at email@example.com.
The above report appeared in the North Devon Gazette, however, despite the apparent enthusiasm shown by various parties for the proposals one wonders just how wise it will be to deploy a high speed catamaran on what would be very exposed routes.
FALMOUTH HARBOUR COMMISSIONERS
Giant cruise liners could bring thousands of extra visitors to the West Country.
Marine experts in Falmouth have confirmed that the port on the South Cornwall coast could be dredged to take the new range of liners.
In the thriving world of cruise ships, the latest models can take more than 4,300 passengers.
The massive influx of visitors to the popular seaside resort would bring huge financial benefits throughout the community.
An assessment is being carried out to establish the environmental impact of the dredging. Results are due in May.
Marine consultants Royal Haskoning said the channel design would be suitable for the world's biggest cruise ships. The future could see 340-metre (1,115ft) vessels docking in Falmouth harbour.
Environmental groups have expressed concern, however, at the effect the project could have on wildlife in the area.
Falmouth Harbour Commissioner Captain Mark Sansom said he was pleased with the progress being made on the port's environmental impact assessment report.
"The Falmouth Harbour Commissioners have commitment and responsibility for the economic wellbeing of the port and believe this project will help secure a sustainable future for the port and local businesses as well as further afield in Cornwall. I'm delighted that we are moving closer towards our ambition becoming a reality."
A spokesman for Royal Haskoning said: "The design of the channel has also been reviewed to ensure that the channel will be safe to navigate yet minimises the amount of dredging required.
Bob Harrison, director of cruise marketing organisation Destination South West, said: "Cruise ship visitors spend a lot of money at places they visit and when they visit somewhere they like, they tend to return to the area for a longer visit at a later date.
"We should also not forget that the crew come ashore and spend money and you should never underestimate the effect they have on talking up a shore visit to passengers. In Falmouth, stores such as Marks & Spencer put on extra staff when there's a ship due in.
The £410,000 impact assessment project is being jointly funded by the South West of England Regional Development Agency and the Objective One Partnership for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
[WESTERN MORNING NEWS]
Public notices were published in the Merseyside press this week by Peel Ports seeking planning permission to operate a ship recycling facility at Canada Dock, Liverpool. The granting of permission will enable Leavesley International, a UK based group, to establish a ship recycling facility at Canada Dry Dock.
It is anticipated that subject to the granting of the necessary permission, the first ship to be recycled will be the assault landing ship HMS INTREPID. The company anticipates that it can recycle two ships per year at the Canada Dock site.
PENINSULAR & ORIENTAL STEAM NAVIGATION COMPANY
NORCAPE will replace the GLOBAL FREIGHTER on Liverpool - Dublin until she in turn is replaced by the TOR MAXIMA in mid-March.
At which point the NORCAPE replaces the EUROPEAN MARINER on Larne - Troon. The EUROPEAN MARINER's future hasn't been announced but she is not expected to be sold.
PORT OF LARNE
BUMPER YEAR FOR TOURISM AT THE PORT OF LARNE
The Port of Larne enjoyed a bumper year for tourist traffic, according to 2007 throughput figures released by the port today.
Total passenger numbers grew to 943,000, an increase of 9% on 2006. The number of tourist passengers grew by 70,000, while tourist vehicles increased by 17%.
Welcoming the figures, Managing Director, Keith Millar said “The range of ferry routes provided in Larne makes it an ideal option for tourists. Whether it’s tourists visiting Northern Ireland, people holidaying on the mainland or for short business trips, Larne’s location is ideal.”
Ro-ro freight traffic through the port also grew by 3.2% in 2007, with Larne carrying a total of almost 440,000 units. Much of this is Just-In-Time traffic, servicing the retail sector in Northern Ireland and providing the route for much of the country’s business exports.
“Sometimes the ro-ro freight business isn’t seen as glamorous by the public”, said Keith Millar, “but it is the lifeblood of our economy. All our major supermarkets and retail businesses rely almost entirely on ro-ro traffic. The range of options for the haulier available at Larne, together with the reliability of those ferry services, makes it an excellent choice for business.”
P&O Irish Sea’s Larne-Cairnryan service grew on what was a record year in 2006 to carry 253,000 loads, while Stena’s service to Fleetwood grew by 4% to 155,000.
To add to an already successful year, the future looks promising for the Port of Larne as the DRD Roads Service makes plans to upgrade the remaining section of the A8, Larne-Belfast road to dual carriageway standard. Funding from the Republic of Ireland’s government for infrastructure improvements in the North was announced at the North-South Ministerial Conference last July and can only mean increased social and economic benefits as a whole.
“Since the announcement, we have had confirmation from the Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, that the route corridor study of the last length of the A8 from Belfast to Larne is underway,” explained Keith Millar. “Business and tourists have demonstrated that they want to use Larne. It is vital, therefore, that these improvements happen sooner rather than later. The importance of completing the Trans European Route and creating dual carriageway all the way to Larne can’t be over-emphasised. The port, the town and Northern Ireland want it and more importantly, need it!”
The increase in traffic is not the only improvement the port has seen in the last year.
The Port of Larne Business Park also continued its development with two new logistics hubs opened in 2007 and a planning application is underway from McKenzies (NI) Ltd, for a food retail and leisure development in the Park.
Commenting on the developments, Keith Millar said, “The value of setting up so close to the port with its 24/7 choice of ferry routes has been quickly recognised by many businesses and we are already receiving further significant interest.”
“We fully support the supermarket proposal as Larne desperately needs a new convenience food retail offer. This site is ideally situated to make best use of existing infrastructure and capture some of those almost one million passengers, many of whom drive on without stopping. We feel this site is perfect for the people of Larne and servicing the traffic that uses the port.”
Looking forward to 2008 Mr Millar added, “There is no doubt that there was a major “feel good factor” in Northern Ireland in 2007. We at the port, like everybody in the country, have seen the benefit our own local NI Assembly has brought. There are challenging times ahead but I am confident our elected representatives are up to those challenges. The Port of Larne will continue to provide the first-class 24/7 service to our customers that they need to support Northern Ireland business in the year ahead.”
SEA TRUCK FERRIES
Seatruck have taken a further step in their fleet expansion plans with the purchase of two ro-ro ferries from Attica Holdings in Greece. The 1998-built CHALLENGE and the 1999-built SHIELD are sisterships. They have a length (O/A) of 121 m, capacity for 65 trailers and a speed of 16.5 kts.
The vessels will join the two other vessels of this class, TRIUMPH and ARROW, which were purchased by Seatruck from Greek owners last October.
SHIELD will remain on charter to Norfolk Line, operating from Heysham on Irish Sea routes, whilst CHALLENGE will continue to operate Seatruck Ferries’ service between Dublin and Liverpool.
Seatruck CEO Kevin Hobbs says: “This is another important strategic move for Seatruck. There remains a significant lack of this type of tonnage in the marketplace. In acquiring the four ferries, we have the opportunity to maximise their commercial potential in the coming years - both in our own services and on the open market. These sisterships are well proven and reliable. We look forward to welcoming the additional two into our fleet.”
By mid-2008 Seatruck Ferries will control a fleet of 10 vessels: four newbuilds from Spain, the ferries RIVERDANCE and MOONDANCE and the four recent purchases, ARROW, TRIUMPH, CHALLENGE and SHIELD. ARROW is on charter to Norfolk Line, operating from Heysham on the Irish Sea routes. The TRIUMPH is on charter to Balearia.
Seatruck’s rapid development over the past 12 months also includes the September takeover of Celtic Link’s Dublin-Liverpool route. The newbuild CLIPPER POINT will soon enter service on the Warrenpoint-Heysham route.
SWANSEA - CORK FERRIES
The Irish Examiner reported this week that talks on the possibility of reactivating the Swansea-Cork ferry service are said to be at a critical stage.
A West Cork-based businessman, who is originally from Kerry, and other stakeholders have held several meetings in recent weeks and are looking at sourcing funding.
Captain Michael McCarthy, the Port of Cork’s marketing manager, said yesterday talks were at a "delicate stage".
Capt McCarthy said that he was doing all in his power to get the link reinstated.
A decision on whether to go ahead with the project will have to be made shortly, otherwise it will be extremely difficult to market in Britain for the summer season. The loss of the ferry link cost the south-west region €35 million in lost tourism revenue last year.
Two potential vessels have been identified, costing €20m each. It is expected that the Port of Cork will offer some financial incentives.
These are likely to include reduced fees for a period. There have also been calls from Cork Business Association for Cork City Council and Cork County Council to offer financial assistance.
However, several county councillors have said the county council wouldn’t be able to help and have insisted the Government should intervene.
The mayor of County Cork, Cllr Tom Sheahan, said he understood the business interests trying to relaunch the ferry service still faced a shortfall in finances, but he was hoping this gap could be bridged.