Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Rathlin's Lifeline Ferry Grounded

Two items of bad new news for islanders and other ferry users were published on the Rathlin Community website today; the first involved a fare increase announced by DRD, the Department for Regional Development, and the second the enforced absence of the Canna, the lifeline passenger and vehicle ferry as of to-morrow, Wednesday, February 29. I understand that islanders only had a few days notice to stock-up on essential supplies.

Notice from Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd about the MV Canna
By webmaster - Posted on 28 February 2012

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Below is a message from Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd regarding the MV Canna:
"Lloyd's Register of MV Canna, issued last year for five years, has been successfully appealed by CMAL [Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd] and is now due to expire on 29/02/2012. The vessel will go out of service thereafter for engine overhaul. Finding a replacement vessel is proving difficult - the best availabale at this moment is a vessel from 6th March 2012. Residents should, threfore, be aware that there may be disruption to Ro-Ro services during early March and essential supplies scheduled for delivery - either to or from Rathlin - during this period should be brought forward where possible. RIFL regrets any inconvenience that may occur during this time and are doing their utmost to avoid any disruption. Passenger travel is not affected. For more information call ..

A CMAL spokesman about this time last year said, "CMAL Charter this vessel to RIFL on a Bareboat basis i.e. during the Charter period the vessel shall be in the full possession and at the absolute disposal for all purposes of the charterers and under their complete control in every respect. .. RIFL maintain the MV CANNA to Class and Flag State requirements and CMAL inspects the vessel twice a year to ensure this is the case. The main engines were replaced comparatively recently (when compared against the age of the ship) and we would estimate that they would remain serviceable until 2020 provided they are maintained and overhauled in accordance with manufacturers, class and flag state requirements. Other work would have to carried out on the rest of the vessel however."

I understand that RIFL and DRD were told that Calmac/Rathlin Ferries Ltd had scheduled a re-engining of the Canna's Scania engines - not just a major overhaul - during the annual overhaul in the late summer of 2010.

The RIFL message, as yet, has not appeared on the RIFL and DRD websites. Why aren't users other than the islanders also being informed about the absence of the passenger and vehicle ferry?

Presumably the DRD minister, Danny Kennedy, will have some questions to put to RIFL, CMAL and Lloyd's Register - and to his own officials. Did DRD officials act on the information supplied by Calmac/Rathlin Ferries? Why is the Canna being apparently taken out of service at such short notice, notice so short that a relief vessel could not be brought into service? Why did CMAL appeal the Lloyd's Register decision to extend the operation of the Canna without a major engine overhaul? How long has the DRD known about this withdrawal from service? As this is not an emergency why has a lifeline ferry been taken out of service at short notice before a relief vessel is on station? What actions did the responsible DRD official take to prevent such a scenario developing to the point that a lifeline service is out of action?

The Minister might also like to ask RIFL why the annual accounts which were due to be submitted to Companies House by December 31, 2011, have, apparently, not yet been sent.

A little bit of history.

Added February 29

Here is part of a curious response I received from the Consumer Council of Northern Ireland [ferry report]:

".. our colleagues in the Transport team who investigated with DRD and the Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd, as well as discussing the issue with the Rathlin Community Development Association.  They’ve updated me as follows:

Although the MV Cana (the vehicle ferry operating between Ballycastle and Rathlin) is shortly to be taken out of service for routine maintenance it will be replaced with a similar vessel so that vehicles will be able to be transported to and from the island.  No break in service is expected and for this reason no information has needed to be provided to passengers regarding the change.

We will continue to monitor this situation to ensure there is no interruption to service."

The reply is curious in the sense that it's not an example of routine maintenance and the operator has already apologised for the break in service. Has Lloyd's Register given a class certificate extension beyond today and until a relief vessel is on station? No doubt the Minister at some point will be able to provide some clarification as well as answers to the questions posed on this blog and other questions that will be asked by elected representatives.

Added March 1

Assembly Questions

Added March 3

MV Coll has arrived and will take the place of the MV Canna; the latter's class certificate was suspended and, perhaps, later extended until its engines have the required overhaul.

Added March 8

Here's a transcript of some relevant CMAL-RIFL correspondence from 2008.

Added March 12

[click to enlarge]

Added March 19