Hunt is on for chief to oversee relaunch of ferry service
By Sean O’Riordan - Irish Examiner
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
WEST Cork Tourism is seeking to appoint a chief executive to run the Fastnet Line which will relaunch the Swansea-Cork ferry route next March.
The successful applicant will asked to develop the company’s operations during the next seven months and raise an additional €1.5 million for working capital.
A co-operative, formed by West Cork Tourism, has already raised €3m towards the purchase of the MV Julia, a 1,800-berth vessel capable of carrying 400 cars.
The cooperative has struck a deal with a Finnish bank for a loan to purchase the vessel which previously plied the Baltic Sea.
The agreement has to be ratified by a Finnish court, but the co-operative hopes to have its hands on the vessel before the end of the summer.
"We hope to have a chief executive in place in August and hope to get the ship by the end of August or the start of September," West Cork Tourism chairman Conor Buckley said.
He said he was hopeful the Fastnet Line would be officially launched in October and that a major marketing campaign would then get under way.
The tourist industry in the south-west region is estimated to have lost up to €150m since Swansea-Cork Ferries closed the route in 2006.
It had been a financially viable service, but the company ceased operations when it sold on the MV Superferry and was unable to purchase a replacement ship.
As a result the crew of 120 lost their jobs, along with 45 shore staff in Ireland and a further 30 in Swansea.
Mr Buckley said the new ferry would have to be fitted out to comply with Irish regulations and it would be later in the year before the Fastnet Line sought a crew for it.
It had been hoped to restart the service last year but it took so long to reach an agreement with the Finnish bank that time slipped away.
Mr Buckley said it was decided it would be wasteful to start operations out of season and instead it was felt it would be better to hold off until next March.
He said that decision would benefit shareholders and tourists’ interests in the long term.
The Port of Cork and British Associated Ports, which runs the Port of Swansea, have promised incentives to the operators to restart the service.
Meanwhile, Cork County Council and Fáilte Ireland are expected to provide €500,000 for a marketing campaign.
This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Wednesday, July 15, 2009