Campaigners attempting to save the Swansea to Cork ferry have failed to raise the €1.5million needed to secure its future and the service has been put into receivership.
In a statement made today, Thursday, February 2, the West Cork Tourism Co-operative, which jointly owns the Fastnet Line service, announced the end of the service following a three-month battle to save it.
Co-Op chairman Noel Murphy said: “Despite heroic efforts by staff and supporters of the ferry service in both Ireland and Wales, we are very disappointed to announce that we could not to save this vital piece of tourism and transport infrastructure.
“We would like to thank our friends throughout Ireland and Wales who relied on the ferry service and the visitors it transported, and who pledged hundreds of thousands of Euro. Unfortunately, these funds and the funds pledged by local council’s in Cork and Kerry were insufficient to meet the required figure to achieve the proposed scheme or arrangement. Our efforts fell at the final hurdle.”
Historic debt and rising oil prices left the Fastnet Line ferry struggling to survive in 2011.
The service was put into examinership last November – a process in Irish law where High Court protection is granted to a company for up to 100 days to allow it to prepare a plan to ensure its survival.
During this period a fundraising campaign led by the Co-Op got underway to raise the €1.5million needed to bring the vessel back to the waves as a seasonal service in 2012.
A number of private donations were made to the campaign by local business owners and loyal passengers to help save their preferred travel route between Ireland and Wales.
Local councils in West Cork and South Wales, who face a loss of roughly €50million in tourism revenue through the loss of the service, further supported the campaign.
The Co-Op had hoped the Irish and Welsh governments would provide the bulk of the funds needed to secure a future for the Fastnet Line service, but was ultimately unable to secure their support.
“The funds were there, private and public, to allow us to continue but, despite the best efforts of all involved, state aid rules and red tape choked off the ferry’s chances of sailing again in March 2012,” Mr Murphy explained.
“All private funds committed in our recent request for support will be returned. We have lost the battle but the war is not lost: the West Cork Tourism Co-Operative Society is still in existence to promote Tourism in West Cork and Kerry and the South west Region of Wales.”
He added: “We see this as a major opportunity lost for Southern Ireland and Southern Wales, but there are positives. We saw a remarkable grassroots campaign of passengers, small business, local politicians, business leaders and citizens rallying behind the ferry. The people of South Wales and South Munster did not lie down, they fought for this tooth and nail and this spirit will stand us in good stead in this economic climate and bodes well for a resurrection of the service. “
The closure of the service, which will be put into receivership or liquidation by a High Court judge today, will result in the direct loss of 78 jobs and expected losses of €30 million in tourist spending in the Munster region and more than €20 million in the South Wales region.
Ironically the announcement was made in the same week that a cross-party group of Welsh Assembly Members launched an inquiry into how Welsh ports and airports could be better developed to boost the economy.
In Ireland the announcement came as national tourism board Fáilte Ireland revealed it has missed its targets for attracting tourists to South Munster.
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