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Search for new ferryboss nears completion

By Sean O’Riordan - Irish Examiner
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

AROUND 10 people have been interviewed for the post of chief executive of Ireland’s planned new ferry company.

The Fastnet Line intends to operate between Cork and Wales on the Swansea route.
It is expected the successful candidate will be announced next month.

Conor Buckley, head of West Cork Tourism – which formed the cooperative that founded the Fastnet Line – said it was expected a new chief executive would be chosen next month to oversee the resumption of the Cork-Swansea ferry.

"There has been a lot of interest in the job and, as soon as the chief executive is appointed, we expect things to start moving along quite quickly," Mr Buckley said.

He said one of the first functions of the chief executive will be to oversee the launch of a major marketing campaign to attract British tourists to the south-west.

The service is scheduled to be up and running from March 1 next.

"We would expect the marketing campaign to kick-in around September or October," Mr Buckley said.

Cork County Council and Fáilte Ireland have already committed around €500,000 to the marketing campaign.

One of the main tasks of the new chief executive will be to raise an additional €1.5 million in working capital which will be used to hire a crew and refit the MV Julia to comply with Irish maritime standards.

The Port of Cork has told West Cork Tourism that it will bring the vessel back from Finland where it is currently docked.

Port of Cork commercial manager, Captain Michael McCarthy, said the MV Julia would be berthed on the city quays while its refit was being carried out.

The port authorities have worked closely with West Cork Tourism for the last two years in an effort to resume the route which was axed by Swansea-Cork Ferries 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.

"The Port of Swansea has also been assisting the resumption of services," Captain McCarthy said.

The MV Julia was purchased earlier this year by a West Cork Tourism cooperative after it raised €3m.

The cooperative struck a deal with a Finnish bank which has agreed to provide a loan to cover the full cost of the purchase.

The vessel formerly plied the Baltic Sea. It has 1,800 berths and is capable of carrying up to 400 cars.

It had been hoped to restart the service last year but it took much longer to strike a deal with the Finnish bank than initially anticipated.

As a result, it was decided not to restart the route late in the season.

It has been estimated the loss of the ferry connection cost the Cork and Kerry region more than €150m in lost tourist revenue.