A story of people power at its best…!
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…
In 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:
- In April 2008 an online campaign was launched by John Hosford and Adrian Brentnall at bringbacktheswanseacorkferry.com,
- A private consortium of investors joined forces and came up with a plan to launch a new service.
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.
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: