Wednesday, 2 July 2008

New Rathlin Ferry Operator 5

I've been given a 'missing in action' Department of Regional Development (DRD) document(s)* which shed(s) new light on the Rathlin ferry fiasco. Here are a few relevant snippets:

Programme: Rathlin Island passenger and roll on roll off ferry

Total Capital £m: 7.5 [£1.2m for (temporary) passenger ferry/catamaran and £6.3m for ro-ro ferry/ferries?]

Total Revenue £m: 1.5

Impact on Objective A: Maintain the 'life-line' economic connection of Rathlin Island to the rest of the north for the 70 (approx) island residents [as] well as develop the tourism potential of the island.

[Calmac - owned by the Scottish] Executive and may not be permitted by its parent department to operate outside of the Scottish undertaking for much longer.**

The current proposal targets .. and envisages the acquisition of a passenger vessel as an interim measure until a new purpose built vessel can be procured.

The first phase is to acquire a passenger only vessel to supplement the existing roll on roll off Rathlin ferry [MV Canna - owned by CMAL which in turn is owned by the Scottish Executive]. This will result in increased passenger carrying capacity to meet the burgeoning seasonal demand from tourists to travel to the island. [page 30]

The second phase involves procurement of a replacement (RoRo) ferry [perhaps two as one would be needed as a relief vessel] to facilitate a consistent level of freight to be carried to the island throughout the year. Freight carriage is currently restricted in summer months to accommodate higher passenger demand. The current passenger capacity is limited to 27 plus two cars (or one lorry) in winter and 125 passengers with no vehicles in summer. The current vessel is nearing the end of its working life and is providing a very basic service. To ensure the continuation of the service, investment in a new vessel is required in the near future. A lead-n time of 2-3 years is anticipated in acquiring a prpose built vessel and commitment of the necessary finances must be made ahead of undertaking procurement action?

Once the RoRo vessel is fully operational, scope may exist to dispose*** of the passenger vessel [catamaran?], generating a cash return to the service.

This document and related information poses a number of questions. Was the tendering process a smokescreen for decisions already taken by Stormont and Holyrood? Did all tenderers see this document and the Schedule A, Schedule B and Schedule C documents? Did Stormont have a preferred tenderer in place in 2007 and did Stormont officials provide technical assistance? Did Stormont check the credentials of all tenderers with their relevant opposite numbers in Holyrood and the Dáil?

Adds 03.07.08

Fast Ferry Sets Sail

Aine McGrady

The Chronicle - Moyle Edition

Adds 04.07.08

Some new images taken this morning.

Adds 05.07.08

More queries on ferry launch - News Letter

THE new operator of the Rathlin Island ferry has said that his first few days running the service have been "plain sailing".

Perhaps a little too plain. The 20-minute timetabled fast ferry crossing appears to be taking at least 30 minutes and that's in fairly calm conditions.

Boarding arrangements appear to be quite primitive. The steps appear not to have a hand rail and I presume physically impaired folks would have to be lifted aboard. There are hand rails leading down onto the pontoons but there appear to be no safety barriers around them.

Writing last Tuesday in response to Mr Dallat’s questions, Mr Murphy said that at that time Mr O’Driscoll was still “finalising” his ticketing system, safety management documentation and an environmental plan.

A copy of the tender scoring documents obtained by the News Letter shows that boxes for “ticketing and information”, “safety of operations” and “environmental considerations” were all ticked prior to the contract being awarded in April.

Here is a copy of Schedule A. Note that these boxes MUST be ticked in order to proceed to the, er, scoring process.

document.asp?docid=12213 ?

** Are there any documents in Belfast, Edinburgh or Glasgow to back-up this claim? It would seem to be at odds with CalMac's decision to put in a bid for the six year contract.

*** Why all the publicity about a catamaran if it's only intended to be an interim measure and before its suitability has been demonstrated?