Friday, 13 June 2008

New Rathlin Ferry Operator 2

Conor Murphy, Minister for Regional Development, issued a press release about changes to the Rathlin ferry operation on 21 April 2008 and I blogged the story a week later. I updated the blog on June 5 following rumours on the Causeway Coast that all was not running smoothly; I'd also cross-checked these stories with political and media contacts and googled the names of some of the people involved.

“This is a significant step forward in the development of Rathlin Island. The number of visitors using the ferry service has been steadily increasing and a new fast ferry can only help to stimulate this even further.

”The Department has secured the continuing use of the roll-on/roll-off ferry, the MV Canna, to provide vehicle and freight services. The Canna is owned by the Scottish company, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and will be leased to the new operator.

The new catamaran, to be commissioned* by Mr O’Driscoll, will be available for service in summer 2009. Until then, the enhanced timetable will be provided by the MV Canna and a smaller mono-hulled vessel, which can carry up to 38 passengers on the 20 minute crossing.

The Rathlin Development Community Association was consulted during the tender specification stage. Their Sustainable Tourism Strategy called for more comfortable passenger services on the route to attract more tourist visitors to Rathlin.

The Department is working towards a date for handover of the contract of 1 June 2008.

Why the delay? CMAL told me today that the lease for the MV Canna has yet to be signed. What other parts of the operation have yet to be completed, including those that were supposedly in place prior to the submission of tenders? Tendering was handled by the Central Procurement Directorate in the Department of Finance and Personnel, Peter Robinson's former ministry.

Will the intervention of the Northern Ireland Audit Office further delay the process? I understand the new proposed date of commencement is July 1.

*Is Mr O'Driscoll paying for this ferry or is funding coming from the DRD budget? Was the following information from INVESTMENT STRATEGY FOR NORTHERN IRELAND (ISNI 2) 2008 - 2018 made available by CPD during the tender process?

Rathlin Island passenger ferry £1.2m 0 £1.2m
Rathlin Island roll on roll off ferry £6.3m 0 £6.3m


Senator Michael McCarthy, Seanad Debate, Thursday, 15 May 2008:

I raised a point in this House approximately two weeks ago regarding the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and contracts it was offering in respect of ferry transport services from offshore islands to the mainland. I raised the issue regarding west Cork in particular, where the European TUPE regulations on the transfer of undertakings to guarantee workers’ rights and protect their standards were removed from one such contract. However, the Northern Ireland Administration offered a contract in respect of the Rathlin Island ferry in which the same clause was inserted. Has the Leader given consideration to my request to allow Members time to debate this issue with the Minister in respect of ferry contracts?

How secure are the Rathlin ferry TUPE undertakings? Have the current ferry staff agreed terms with the new ferry service operator? Have the jobs for the additional ferry, the mv True Light(?), been advertised and filled?

Senator Michael McCarthy similarly condemned the government’s failure to protect the employment rights of Cape Clear ferry workers. Senator McCarthy stated, “It is my opinion that the real culprit is Minister O Cuiv and his department whose negligence has created this loophole and put the crewmen’s jobs in doubt.” He added that Irish workers’ rights must be protected regardless of whether their work is carried out on land or sea and accused the Minister and government of failing miserably in this case.

What was the name of the boat submitted by O'Driscoll in the first tender? Did he own or had he leased it? How many passengers was it legally permitted to carry at that time?


Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy went to Rathlin Island today [30 July 2007] to listen to residents' concerns.

The Rathlin Development and Community Association (RDCA) presented the Minister with a policy document developed by the Irish Islands Federations

News Letter. 18 June 2008: Probe into tendering contract of ferry run


Questions to the Minister for Regional Development

1. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if all interested parties who tendered for the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service were aware of the £1.2 million additional funding announced in the budget.

(AQW 8193/08)

2. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if the relief vessel for the MV Canna on the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service has a passenger carrying certificate.

(AQW 8194/08)

3. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if the successful tender for the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service included a safety management plan.

(AQW 8195/08)

4. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if he is aware of any safety concerns relating to the past record of the successful tenderer for the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service.

(AQW 8196/08)

5. Mr Dallat (East Londonderry):

To ask the Minister for Regional Development if he is satisfied that the successful tenderer for the Rathlin-Ballycastle Ferry Service has in place all requirements, including (i) a ticketing system; (ii) international safety management documentation; and (iii) an environmental plan, in keeping with the tendering process.

(AQW 8197/08)

Does the Minister have any plans to visit the island prior to July 1?