Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Rathlin Island Ferry Service - Lack of Government Supervision?

An email query to the Department of Regional Development on July 18 produced a prompt reaction from the department, action from Rathlin Island Ferry Limited and this DRD reply on July 21:

"The service provider, Rathlin Island Ferry Limited, has advised that it intends to update its website as a matter of urgency, in order to advise passengers of the ongoing issues.

The Department have been notified that the Rathlin Ferry Services, provided by the passenger only vessel, The Rathlin Express have not been available since 10 July 2014. The service provider has advised us that the Rathlin Express broke down on Thursday 10th July on the 16.15 sailing from Rathlin. The port engine had a crack in it and was ingesting water. Contractors are working on the repair and it is hoped the vessel will be back in service by Tuesday 22nd July.

The St. Sorney took over as relief vessel* from the 17.00 departure from Ballycastle on the 10 July 2014 and covered the Rathlin Express sailings up to and including 11.15 departure from Ballycastle on Sunday 13th July. However a similar technical problem developed on the St. Sorney and from the 12.00 departure from Rathlin on Sunday 13th July there have been no fast ferry sailings. Contractors are also working on the St Sorney with an expected repair date also of 22 July 2014.

The MV Canna continued and is continuing to provide operating four return sailings per day, Where this is not ideal it does mean that there is a lifeline service to and from Rathlin.

The service provider regrets any inconvenience this unfortunate series of events has caused and has assured the Department that it is working with the contractors to get the issue resoled as soon as possible."

[cf "Even though the catamaran has been out of service for nearly two months it would appear that DRD has not been closely monitoring information supplied to potential customers on the ferry operator's website about the vessel's availability. Presumably DRD has given the operator advice about necessary website information." ... NALIL blog 26 Nov 2009 ... see also NALIL blog 24 Aug 2012]

*Details for the provision of relief vessels as detailed in the 2008-2014 contract are outlined here.

[click images to enlarge]

These messages on the RIFL website provide useful information for prospective customers and should be posted as and when required.

Why was the catamaran being driven at speeds of up to 22 kts when previous breakdowns appeared to take place at speeds greater than around 16 kts? Why was the catamaran permitted to travel for several weeks with its Ship AIS system apparently switched off? Did neither of these events attract the attention of the DRD and/or the Maritime and Coastguard Agency?