Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Rathlin Ferry - MCA Admission - A Calmac Response

NALIL blog invited Calmac to respond to the recent document issued by Peter Cardy, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

A Calmac spokesman replied:

"I am appalled to have it confirmed at this late stage that such a fundamental and serious failure occurred, the more so since the investigation carried out by the DRD previously dismissed this allegation as being without foundation.

Operating without a valid Passenger Certificate is illegal, and regarded in such a serious light that the penalties can even extend to imprisonment, and any breach would be expected to be dealt with firmly at the time by the MCA. It is likely that in such circumstances insurances would be invalid also, and I would have expected the ship to be withdrawn from service immediately, until the situation was rectified.

I am puzzled by the reference to the preceding two years. The Passenger Certificate clearly required that MV Canna was surveyed between the end of May and the end of August each year, and CalMac always ensured that the ship was taken out of service in good time to carry out her planned annual refit, and to carry out repairs in order to ensure the ongoing safety of her crew and passengers. At no time would CalMac have ever contemplated operating without valid certification, and did not do so."


The Department for Regional Development are also likely to be discommoded by the following report. The operators of the Rathlin ferry are confronted by strike action on their Cape Clear service in Co Cork:

SIPTU members threaten industrial action on Cape Clear ferry
Date Released: 26 May 2009

SIPTU has served notice of a one day strike on June 4th on the Cape Clear Ferry, Naomh Ciaran II, in protest at pay cuts ranging from 22 per cent for deckhands to 27 per cent for the ship’s master. The stoppage will last from 8.30am until 7.00pm.

“The company also expects the employees to work four extra weeks between May and September, for nothing”, SIPTU Branch Organiser Eddie Mullins said today. “The reasons it gives are that the ferry is running at an alleged loss and the falling levels in the cost of living.

“To date the company has refused to acknowledge our correspondence, including requests for discussions. The employees are very united in this case and are determined to fight these unilateral cutbacks. We have also invoked the Payment of Wages Act, of which the company is in clear violation.”

Adds May 31

An Phoblacht, the SF vanity rag, has referred to the strike in its latest edition. Can employees of the sister company in Ballycastle and Rathlin expect the same savage wage cuts in the near future? How would SF minister Conor Murphy and SF's North Antrim MLA, Daithi McKay, react? As far as I know, they didn't lift a finger to help when the northern company dispensed with the services of its most experienced manager. And they've yet to issue a comment about one of the ferries carrying passengers illegally and the other operating for months without the company name on the insurance certificate.

Adds Jun 1

Our friends in the South report that Fachtna, the experienced skipper of the Naomh Ciaran II, was given notice of his redundancy yesterday, just a few days before Thursday's strike.

I'm told that other crew members staged a wild-cat strike this morning in response to the sacking/lay-off and that Ciaran, Mary and son Aidan crewed the 11 am sailing. Presumably the authorities will check whether or not all crew members credentials are appropriate and current.

The ferry website seems to have been hacked as an image of the Grim Reaper is on display. [Grim Reaper has now gone]

Adds Jun 2

emara News: Cape Clear SUBSIDISED Ferry Operator Pleads Poverty

The actions of the MCA in permitting a ferry to operate without a valid passenger certificate et al have now been raised in the House of Lords and a reply is expected shortly.

Reminder from investigators' report 4.4.3

The Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs confirmed that in its experience Mr. O'Driscoll was a potential candidate who had done well on other routes. The Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has since said that "on three occasions financial penalties have been imposed on the operator in accordance with the terms of the contract.

They went on to state that “Notwithstanding this however, it is the Department’s considered view that the service provided by Tithe Saoire Cleire Teo to Cleire rates on a par with the majority of other island Ferry Services subsidized by it".

And here's the DCRGA reply to paragraph 4.4.3:

On Tue, Jun 2, 2009 at 2:46 PM, Mac Cormaic, Aodhán <AMacCormaic@pobail.ie> wrote:

.... Regarding your suggestion that this Department recommended Ciarán Ó Drisceoil to DRDNI, I can find no record of such a recommendation on the Department's files.

Those who are following events on Cape Clear and the possible implications for the Rathlin ferry service will wish to read this petition. All comments welcome.

Adds Jun 4

Photos on Flickr's Rathlin Rip 2

Discussion on Peoples Republic of Cork blog
mushypea: "thanks for the insight lads......paints a better picture"

Adds June 10

Lord Laird to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Maritime and Coastguard Agency was aware that in September 2008 the ferry MV Canna operated by the Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd was operating without a valid passenger carrying certificate; and, if so, what action they took. HL3986

Will the Ministerial reply place the blame where it belongs or will the MCA highlight an administrative 'malfunction'? If the latter, will the MCA retain any credibility in the maritime industry?

Why is MCA obfuscating?

Lord Adonis replies to Lord Laird

On 3 October 2008, whilst completing the annual survey of the MV CANNA, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) became aware that the vessel had operated without a valid passenger certificate between 1 and 11 September 2008.

The Minister would appear to have been misinformed. Peter Cardy, MCA CEO, has already admitted that the MCA knew about the 'problem' on September 5, 2008, yet it continued to let the vessel carry passengers with an invalid certificate and, presumably, no insurance. The MCA also knew from its own records that the MV Canna was out of survey on August 31, 2008 and an MCA surveyor was on RIFL premises in Ballycastle on August 29. Just how long would this state of illegality have pertained had pertinent questions not been asked on September 5, 2008?

Earlier MCA document here and here (with notes) for comparison with Cardy document.