Deal for €10m ship under way
by Sean O’Riordan - Irish Examiner - Wednesday, February 25, 2009
THE man planning to re-launch the Cork-Swansea sea route is flying to Finland today where he hopes to conclude a deal to acquire a new €10 million ferry.
Captain Frank Allen is hoping to finalise negotiations with a Finnish bank to purchase The Julia, a ferry capable of carrying 1,800 passengers and 400 cars.
Capt Allen, whose father, Charlie, was one of the leading figures in the former B+I line, attended two special meetings in Swansea yesterday where investors were asked to make up a shortfall of €500,000 needed to seal the deal.
The meeting, similar to ones held in Cork and Kerry in recent weeks, was organised by Associated British Ports, which controls Swansea docks.
Also in attendance were Port of Cork commercial manager, Michael McCarthy, and John Hosford, a west Cork businessman who heads the Bring Back The Cork-Swansea Link campaign.
Captain McCarthy said the Irish contingent were "absolutely astounded by the fantastic welcome" they had received in South Wales.
"There was a very good attendance at both meetings. Television crews from the BBC, ITV and S4C carried out a number of interviews," Capt McCarthy said.
Several people representing industry and tourism in South Wales attended the meetings at the Port of Swansea offices which took place fours hours apart yesterday afternoon.
The attendance also included a number of hauliers, who are anxious to cut down on lengthy road journeys now necessary because they have to use the Fishguard-Rosslare ferry route, following the closure of the Cork-Swansea crossing.
"There were also a number of private investors who came along, including three people who have holiday homes in West Cork and regularly visit the region," Capt McCarthy said.
A co-operative formed by West Cork Tourism has collected around €2.5 million in Cork and Kerry for the venture.
It hopes that South Wales investors will supply, at the very least, the remaining €500,000 required to purchase the ship.
The rest of the money has been promised by a Finnish bank in the form of a loan.
Captain McCarthy said that if the target was surpassed in Wales the oversubscription would allow bank borrowings to be paid off at a faster rate.
The ferry route closed three years ago after the former Swansea-Cork Ferries company was unable to purchase a suitable replacement for their MV Superferry.
Since then it is estimated that around €150 million in tourism revenue has been lost to South-West Ireland.
It is hoped the new ferry will begin sailing between the two cities by April.