Irish Ferries challenges cancellation payout order
Irish Ferries has brought a High Court challenge over a direction that it pay compensation to thousands of passengers affected by the cancellation of sailings between Ireland and France last summer.
The company says it had to cancel the services because the arrival of its new WB Yeats ferry between Dublin and Cherbourg was delayed for several months.
The challenge is against the National Transport Authority (NTA) over its decision in January that, because of the cancellations, the company breached EU regulations on the rights of passengers travelling by sea.
The NTA, the designated enforcement body for maritime passenger rights in Ireland under the regulations, issued the company with two notices requiring it to pay compensation to affected passengers within two months.
The notices direct the company to pay compensation to passengers impacted by the cancellations who had to travel from Rosslare, instead of Dublin, and from Roscoff instead of Cherbourg.
The notices also state passengers who were delayed in reaching their final destination who have already requested compensation from the company must also be paid compensation. Non-compliance with the notices is an offence, with a maximum fine on conviction of €250,000.
The company disputes the NTA's finding and says it and the notices are invalid, irrational, and in breach of its Constitutional Rights and EU rights.
Irish Ferries also says the NTA has misinterpreted the relevant EU regulations.
The cancellations occurred because the WB Yeats ship it had commissioned from the German shipyard Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft was delivered some "200 days" late, Irish Ferries' counsel Paul Gallagher told the High Court yesterday.
Counsel said the delay came as a shock to Irish Ferries and made headlines in the media.
Counsel said the company took steps including offering "an immediate no-quibble reimbursement in full" to affected customers, and offered vouchers for €150, as well as "the opportunity to rebook on alternative sailings of their choosing".
Some 5,700 bookings were affected by the cancellations.
Counsel said 82pc of passengers chose to travel on alternative sailings to France with Irish Ferries. The remainder cancelled and accepted a refund or travelled via the UK, and were compensated for the extra fuel.
Permission to bring the challenge was granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who also placed a stay on the notices from coming into effect pending the proceedings.