Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Up the Creek without a Paddle

For an island nation Ireland largely turns its back on the sea.

A case in point is the current crisis in the Swansea-Cork Ferry Company. They sold their only vessel, the 35 year old M.V. Superferry a few months ago and now they have no ship for their 2007 season.

If you ever travelled on the Superferry in the last few years or just saw it steaming out from Cork Harbour you would see how much it had deteriorated. Anyone with half a brain could see it needed replacing. The Cork-Swansea route is a tough one - across St. George's Channel and past the famous Mumbles, graveyard of ships.

The ferry itself was born of crisis. Back in the 1980s the B+I Line went bust and the Swansea-Cork route was no more. The Cork - South Wales link goes back to the mid 19th century with no less than five separate ships called Innisfallen until the B+I collapsed. So in the mid 1980s the local authorities (Cork City Council and Swansea City Council mainly) got together with the local port authorities and stevedores and set up the Swansea-Cork Ferry Company to reopen the link with South Wales.

Over the years the local authority / public involvement in the company was diluted and the privateers took over. Now their mismanagement leaves a ferry service without a ship and 30 people without a job. Many more downstream jobs are on the line if something urgent isn't done.

* Update: April 2007 - I am glad that a freight ship has finally been found to carry goods between Cork and Swansea. The m.v. Victoria went into service on the route in late March, but it does not carry domestic passenger traffic, only commercial traffic. At least it will provide a vital economic link once again, but we still don't know if the full passenger / freight service will ever be renewed. At this stage, I am not hopeful.

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