20/1/10 (Kerry) Council to invest €50,000 in ferry service
By KEVIN HUGHES www.kerryman.ie
KERRY County Council will hand over €50,000 to support the Cork Swansea Ferry which is due to recommence operations on March 1 after a gap of four years.
Pressure had been mounting on the council to make a substantial contribution towards a new community-driven co-op backing the project – Fastnet Line Ltd – after Cork County Council last month unanimously declared its intention to invest €200,000.
In his report accompanying last week's annual budget, Kerry County Manager Tom Curran said an investment of €50,000, suggested by the promoters of the Cork Swansea Ferry Service, would be granted.
The money forms part of a €413,000 budget allocation labelled as 'tourism development and promotion' and the figure had originally been proposed as the ferry company had issued secured bonds in units of €50,000. It is expected to be approved by special resolution in the next ordinary meeting of the county council.
While the donation is just 25 per cent of Cork's donation, Co-op General Manager Paul O'Brien said he was still happy at Kerry County Council's commitment to the project.
"We're absolutely delighted that the council has agreed to back the ferry as it is as important to Kerry as it is to Cork," he said this week, and added that efforts would continue across Kerry to help fund up to €2 million needed to keep the service afloat into the future. Kerry's business and tourism interests invested just €200,000 in setting up the trust behind the project, a figure massively overshadowed by the €2.2m raised in west Cork.
"We met recently with business interests in Waterville and will be continuing efforts in areas such as Kenmare. We also have arrangements to address Killarney Town Council in February on the matter," Mr O'Brien said.
Kenmare based Cllr Patrick Connor Scarteen called the figure a significant contribution.
"Obviously I would like to see more but, in the current economic climate, it is a significant contribution and I'm delighted to see it. While it may be less that Cork's donation, it must be pointed out that their annual budget is much larger than County Kerry's."
Fastnet Line Ltd secured a vessel the 'Julia" in September 2009, with a capacity of 1,860 passengers, a car capacity of 440 and a freight vehicle capacity of 39. Funding to date includes bank financing secured on the vessel of €6.3m and investment of €2.7m from co-op members, comprising of tourism, business and individual contributions.
Internet bookings for the ferry have been reported as steady, with an average of 30 bookings being taken daily. Already 1,700 bookings have been made, including 15 block bookings for tour parties.
Meanwhile, the council's 'tourism development and promotion' budget allocation has also paved the way for a €75,000 start up fund to support a new promotion initiative for the 'further advancement' of Kerry.