I sent the following query to the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland on August 17 - it had already received a copy of the RDCA memo on August 13:
Where does yesterday's DRD statement - published in the Newsletter - leave CCNI?
CCNI, February 29, 2012 "We will continue to monitor this situation to ensure there is no interruption to service."
and received the following reply on August 23:
Thank you for your recent e-mail relating to the forthcoming disruption to the Rathlin Island Ferry. Antoinette has asked me to respond;
In response to your email, we sought clarification from the Department for Regional Development as to whether a “like for like” vessel had to be provided for this planned period of disruption. The Dept has advised that the proposed removal for dry docking without “like for like” replacement for the first three days is allowed for within the contract procured.
The Dept also advised that this break in service has been planned in advance and discussed with the Rathlin Development and Community Association without any objections raised by users. If you have any other issues or wish to raise a complaint, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I trust this clarifies the situation.
If the CCNI respondent had read the earlier August 15 NALIL blog he would have noted that the three days of grace only applies to vessel breakdown, not to scheduled maintenance and dry-docking.
If an interruption was intolerable in February why is it acceptable now? Emergency service vehicles and 'blue badge' vehicle holders, for example, are identified in the tender's terms of reference so they have been left high-and-dry without a murmur from CCNI (or DRD). Islanders not only use this subsidised lifeline service, some of them are ferry company employees so they may not be in a position to raise objections.
Does the CCNI watchdog lack bite? The repetition of Government department inexactitudes is unlikely to reassure consumers and taxpayers that their interests are being protected.
Ciarán O'Driscoll (RIFL) and Danny Kennedy (DRD minister)
Why have the DRD minister and his officials permitted a break in service during Ballycastle's busiest period in the holiday season - the Lammas Fair - when they insisted on continuity earlier in the year?
Why have the details not been published on the RIFL website for the benefit of all users, especially those with extra needs?
3.6.4 The Department considers that the ferry service should have a separate website giving appropriate information.
Any complaints received in relation to the service since the award of the contract have been investigated by the Department and, on three occasions financial penalties have been imposed on the operator in accordance with the terms of the contract. .. Aodhán Mac Cormaic, Assistant Principal, August 2008
The provision of a relief vessel during the full absence for scheduled maintenance and dry-docking is part of the £4 million subsidised contract. Will the Department be applying any financial penalties on this occasion?
MV Canna - August 24, 18:44
Rathlin Express - August 24, 17:08
Was the catamaran having a Scania engine health-check prior to the Canna's departure?