Swansea Cork Ferry.

A story of people power at its best…!

UPDATE 2012

Sadly the Fastnetline Swansea Cork Ferry service ceased to take bookings this year. We’ll leave this post up as:

a – we really hope they’ll find a way to resume the service, and
b – it is a testament to what can be achieved by communities when they set their mind to it.


Swansea Cork Ferry will be running from the 1st of March 2010.

Great start to the adventure and well done Fastnetline

Here’s the story…

Fastnet LineIn October 2006 the Swansea Cork ferry ceased sailing after the owner was unable to procure a replacement vessel following the sale of the superferry. A ship had been serving the route for almost 20 years and the sudden demise made it very difficult for holiday makers and hauliers wishing to travel between England and Ireland by road, and cost the Cork and Kerry regions approximately €35 million a year in lost tourism revenue.

Initially it was hoped (and expected) that the original operator would restart the service but this failed to materialise. In addition, and for various legal reasons, the Irish government were unable to financially help with the resurrection of the route, and as a result two things happened:

The online campaign generated huge public interest, and behind the scenes the consortium were busy looking at financial options and the sourcing of a ship. The two parties came together during 2008 and a fresh momentum was brought to the crusade.

By December a bank had agreed to fund 60% of the start-up costs, an operator had been found, and four ships had been identified as suitable candidates. The ports of Cork and Swansea had swung in with discounted start-up incentives, and the West Cork Tourism office with Conor Buckley at the helm were actively helping to promote the cause. Fáilte Ireland and Cork County Council had also agreed to finance a marketing package.

Julia - the Swansea Cork Ferry
By January 2009 a ship had been decided upon. The ‘Julia’ could hold 1,860 passengers, 440 cars, 30 freight units, and was also fitted out with 300 passenger cabins. She was owned by a Finnish bank and a deal was waiting to be done. There was one major problem however, the consortium was short 3 million Euros.

STEP IN THE PEOPLE!

On the 12th February, and with great inventiveness, the consortium launched a new co-operative society, and invited anyone and everyone who believed in the venture to make pledges of €10,000. They were looking for 300 private investors and toured Cork, South Kerry and Swansea to build awareness and generate new interest. In parallel, and throughout the campaign, David Young, presenter of the West Cork Today local radio programme, made sure that the general public were kept informed whilst at the same time giving the campaign organisers a powerful and instrumental outlet by which to champion the cause.

The people stepped up to the mark, and after an exciting month the target was reached and the management team were able to confidently enter negotiations for a procurement deal with the Finnish bank. (Actually it was a nail-biting, hold your breath, sit on the edge of your seat three weeks of negotiation – well at least from the outside!)

The memorandum of agreement was signed with the bank on the 3rd April 2009, and will be put to the 300 or so consortium shareholders in Skibbereen, West Cork, tomorrow (Tuesday, 7th April) to ratify the deal.

The Julia, which was recently refitted, will have to undergo some minor alterations to comply with Irish maritime law, and the new operating company will be called Fastnet Line.

A great example of people doing it off their own backs.

Well done to everyone involved – Rock on (roll on!) Cork!

Update: 8th April: The co-op shareholders voted unanimously last night to form a formal co-op, and gave the go-ahead for the purchase of the Julia.

Update: 29th April: Cork and Kerry council, and Failte Ireland (the Irish Tourist Board) are providing a further cash boost to the project which will bring the available marketing fund up to €500K, and the co-operative society will assume charge of the vessel making it a truly ‘local’ venture.

There is a push on to complete the purchase, and a bit of work to be done once the ship is in dry dock, and in the words of the management team “we won’t relax until the new ship is safely tied up in Ringaskiddy – but we are pleased to say that day is getting ever-closer!”

Update 5th May: Given that the summer booking season for 2009 is already well underway, coupled with the extended negotiation process for the purchase of the ship, the co-op have made the (sensible) decision to start running the ferry service on 1st March 2010.

Update 15th September: The Julia has been purchased and will arrive in Cork in the coming weeks. Additional working capital is now required to fund the business, and Fastnet Line will be looking to meet with potential investors from the South West Region and beyond.

Update 24th September: As we write this, the Julia is sailing from Swansea (having successfully finished her berthing trials there) and is on her way to Cork. She is expected to arrive tomorrow morning and she will be moored at Horgan’s Quay for a while.

and here she is…

Update 12th October: Fastnet Line have published the planned sailing schedule for the Julia: She will sail from Swansea each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from Cork on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – departing 21:00 hours and arriving 07:00 hours. During peak periods she will also have additional daytime sailings.

Update 27th January 2010: The Julia is due to arrive at Harris Pye dry-docks in Swansea on January 31st, where she will remain for most of February in readiness for her inaugural sailing from Cork on March 1st.

She will have her certificates renewed, and a host of examinations will be carried out including the inspection, cleaning and anti-fouling of the hull, overhauling of the overboard discharge valves and checking of the propellers and propeller shafts. All main and auxiliary engines will also be overhauled, examined and tested.

She will undergo work to enhance the public areas, and a new children’s play area will be built and four new deluxe cabins added (bringing the total to 14).

Since launching the online system, bookings have now exceeded 3,000 with 70% from the UK, 20% from Ireland, the remainder predominantly from Germany.

Update: 10th January 2010: Probably the last update for this page, and a nice note to end on:

Libby Purves of The Times takes a slow boat to Ireland and enjoys a fine Irish breakfast!

 
 

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Comments

Swansea Cork Ferry. — 23 Comments

  1. This is great news! Well done on the website too …. when did you launch … (no pun intended)?

    Kath

  2. Hi Kathy,

    Great you spotted us on the horizon there – we ‘set sail’ at midnight on St Pats day, Bernadette pressed the button and cut us loose!

    Still working on the rigging but we’ll get the hang of it soon eneough!

    Hows yourself, hope well,

    all the best,

    Mick

  3. Excellent news from the meeting in Skibbereen last night. The co-op members voted unanimously to proceed with the purchase of the MS Julia ferry. There was an overwhelming response from members with a packed room. Conor Buckley of West Cork Tourism advised the members with an up-to-date presentation followed by a round of Q&As. Following the unanimous vote the members continued by electing the officers for the Co-op. Well done again to all involved and long may the positive and refreshing co-op spirit last.

    The Rectory, Glandore, West Cork

  4. Hi Folks

    Thanks for the nice write-up on the campaign!
    Felt I should point out that we’re still happy to accept investment pledges (from €1k to €10k) and straightforward donations (via paypal)….

    Looks like being a nice Easter weekend – looking forward to setting up my glass stall at Skib & Schull markets (skibbereenmarket.com and schullmarket.com) – and it’ll be nice to say ‘hi’ to anybody who comes along….

    Thanks to all of the great folks in West Cork, Kerry and further afield for helping us to make the new ferry dream come true!

    Thanks
    Adrian

  5. Thanks to everone who made this possible. .We intend to travel to Ireland on the 25th June and hope the ferry is up and running by then. Thanks again for the obvious hard work everybody put into the project.
    Best regards,
    John Penney

  6. I will be visiting SW Cork from 8th to 15th May 2010, and am banking on travelling Swansea to Cork, as I have in the past. Looking forward to booking.

  7. Following my last comment. I am travelling to SW Cork as said actually 7th to 16th May 2010. I presume that with one ship there will be a night and a day sailing. It would be most helpful to know exactly what is planned for the route, as I need to organise aB & B at one side or the other. Any chance.

  8. Many thanks Mick. Those arrangements would suit me fine. I will be gojng to near Baltimore so it wouldnt be too difficult to catch the ferry back without B & B. I should think perhaps 2 hours drive. I have registered with Fastnet so await their booking form. Thanks once again. I always look forward to coming to the "Emerald Isle". Only 4 of us next year but in the past up to 16. It has been to Galway, although last year Donegal.

    • Hi Brian,

      Glad to hear you enjoy. Coincidentally we can see Baltimore from where we live – about 6-7 miles in the distance. Right now a bit cloudy but sure it'll be fine for next May :-)

      Oh, and just for clarity if the schedule is the same it'll be morning time when you arrive at this end – a good sleep on the ferry and you'll be raring to go! (and yep, approx 2 hours Ringaskiddy to Baltimore – take the coast road via Kinsale / Timoleague etc and catch some nice scenery).

  9. Great Mick We are really looking forward to our visit. It seems a long way off but I am 77 now and time moves very quickly. One of my 4 is 93 next week. Still loves his Stout as do we all. I will most certainly go via Kinsale especially as it is somewhere I have always wanted to visit. Good eating I understand. Thanks once again. Brian

    • Hi Brian,

      Fastnet Line have updated their website with the sailing schedule for the Julia – she will sail from Swansea each Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from Cork on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – departing 21:00 hours and arriving 07:00 hours. During peak periods she will have additional daytime sailings.

      Slainte,

      Mick

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  11. Hi Brian,

    Fastnet Line have updated their website with the sailing schedule for the Julia – she will sail from Swansea each Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from Cork on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – departing 21:00 hours and arriving 07:00 hours. During peak periods she will have additional daytime sailings.

    Slainte,

    Mick

  12. Congratulations to everyone involved in getting the ferry up and running again. What good news shortened my journey to Kenmare by a huge amount. My wife is disabled and the long journey from Rosslare to Kenmare was a nightmare. Well done everyone.

  13. Timetable sounds fine.First trip from Cork on St David's day. Look forward to travellng to Ireland on the 2nd March. Any news of likely fares yet ?
    John Williams

  14. Hi Felicity D,

    thanks for your comment, and after some consideration decided we arn't best placed to become a forum for debating Fastnetline's future operating policies. It may be worth addressing questions direct to Fastnetline themselves – hope you understand.

    Kind regards, Mick.

  15. Hi Mick I booked on the first day possible. 7th to 15th May. Baltimore here we come. Cant wait to sample the 1st pint. Brian Sandom

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