Friday, 26 September 2008

Rathlin Ferry and the Margaret Sinclair

I'm told that the Margaret Sinclair is expected to go into service on Monday, September 29, for a few three days while the Canna goes off for its annual MOT. This seems unusual as I understand the process usually takes about three weeks.

The Canna's annual inspection is usually scheduled for the end of August but it seems there must have been operational difficulties. Did the DRD fail to ensure there was a relief vessel available from July 1?

The Margaret Sinclair is a work boat but it can accommodate up to 12 passengers whereas the Canna can take up to 140. It has a draft of 2m compared with the Canna's 1.4m and the relatively shallow entrance to Rathlin Harbour may present problems.

Adds September 28

Tender Specification: Timetables

The timetable for the service is determined by the operator in consultation with users. Any changes to the timetable must be notified to the Department at least 4 weeks in advance to allow for public notification by advertisement.

The current summer and winter timetables are to be delivered as the minimum level of service and will not be varied without the approval of the Department. The current period for summer timetables is to be observed throughout the contract, i.e. summer timetables will operate from the start of the Easter school holidays or Good Friday of the Easter weekend, whichever is earlier, until the end of the schools’ half-term break in October (usually the third Saturday in October each year).

Summer appears to have ended early this year as the RIFL changeover date is September 28, not the agreed third Saturday in October.

"The contractor will be required to publish summer and winter timetables annually. These should be published no later than November (in respect of summer timetables) and July (in respect of winter timetables)."

Has the DRD not been informed of the change? It hasn't yet published the new timetable.

Adds September 30

It's a bit of a roller coaster ride as the MS climbs the waves and dives into the troughs. The weather forecast indicates imminent westerly/north-westerly gales.

Adds October 1

DRD in-house investigations report delayed by a month until the end of October.

Adds October 3

It's just been drawn to my attention that the one of the investigators, Steve Rowsell*, had recently acted as an expert witness for the Department of Finance and Personnel in another CPD procurement controversy.

Paul Priestly: I have asked Steve Rowsell - an independent procurement consultant (and former Director of Procurement of the Highways Agency in GB) — to lead this part of the investigation. He will be supported by a team from the Central Procurement Division with no previous involvement in the Rathlin Island Ferry contract, but with experience in NICS procurement processes and best practice, as well as in carrying out such investigations.

Could there be a conflict of interest because of Steve Rowsell's differing roles in these two matters?

The Canna was still not on station so there has been no provision for the carriage of vehicles since the Margaret Sinclair departed and the St Sorney appears to be crossing independently of the timetable.

Adds October 4

Canna back in service.

Did the vessel receive the customary diligent treatment or was it all a bit hurried?

Can Murphy and Robinson walk on water?

We've moved from Direct Rule to Devolution. Have we also moved from management to mismanagement in the procurement process and its consequences?

Adds October 5

21 April 2008 - Improved service for Rathlin ferry will half travel time

Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy today announced that the new contract for the Rathlin Ferry will provide improved services.
The six year contract has been awarded to Mr CiarĂ¡n O’Driscoll, whose companies currently provide ferry services to islands off the coast of County Cork.
Will failure to meet the terms of the contract result in a reduction of subsidy?

Adds October 8

Notification under the Data Protection Act 1998

Notification is a statutory requirement and every organisation that processes personal information must notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), unless they are exempt. Failure to notify is a criminal offence.

Rathlin Ferries Limited began trading under that name on April 1, 2007, and registered with the Data Controller on April 17, 2007.

Rathlin Island Ferry Limited has been trading, at least, since July 1, 2008 yet its name doesn't feature on the list of Data Controllers. Why? Shouldn't registration have been in place within 28 days?


This term refers to the fact that the Commission can serve a notice on a defaulting employer (e.g. an employer who has failed to register, failed to submit a monitoring return on time, or failed to comply with an order of the Tribunal) stating that the employer is not qualified; such a notice brings an employer within scope of the economic sanctions of loss of Government and public authority contracts and grant denial (para 3.4.2).

Equality Commission of Northern Ireland

ECONI has no record of RIFL on its register, according to an ECONI advisor. Doesn't RIFL have more employees than meet the 11 or more requirement for registration?

*Steve Rowsell was also an expert witness for a Government department in a second procurement controversy. [added October 22]

Photos and documents; earlier stories: 'rathlin ferry' search