mv CANNA some years ago in drydock (Photo: Stuart Cameron)
Calmac lose out as contract goes to rival bidder
From June Rathlin ferry service will be run by new operator...
Northern Ireland's Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy yesterday announced that the new contract for the Rathlin Ferry has been awarded to Mr Ciarán O’Driscoll, whose companies currently provide ferry services to islands off the coast of County Cork.
The Minister said: “I am pleased to announce that we have been able to secure a faster, more comfortable vessel to supplement the services already provided by the MV Canna on this route.
“This new contract will offer improved summer and winter timetables using a combination of the current roll-on/roll-off ferry and a new purpose built high speed catamaran capable of carrying 100 seated passengers. The new vessel will provide a comfortable, accessible, year round, service to the island with a reduced crossing time from 45 minutes to 20 minutes. The enhanced timetable will no doubt assist journeys made by the Islanders but will also help in promoting tourism.
“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 service was run previously by Rathlin Ferries Limited, a subsidiary Of Caledonian MacBrayne who will lease the CANNA 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 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.
The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) will apply to the staff currently employed on the route. No job losses are envisaged.
CalMac Managing Director Lawrie Sinclair said: "Caledonian MacBrayne believes that through the service offered in recent years, which has seen significant growth, we have established a track record as a safe, reliable, and dependable ferry operator and we are grateful to the island community on Rathlin for their cooperation and assistance over the years.
"We also believe we submitted a robust bid which would offer significant improvements for the island and its community.
"We wish the island well in the future and will now address any outstanding issues which have to be managed whilst preparing for the hand-over. We would also like to thank the staff in Ballycastle and the crew for their continued good work during their time with us and we wish them well for the future. We will be visiting them soon to complete all the arrangements we have to make and are pleased that no job losses are anticipated."