Saturday 25 January 2020

Cork ferry deal stalled in talks


NEGOTIATIONS appeared to have stalled regarding attempts by a consortium to buy a ship from a Finnish bank for the new Cork-Swansea ferry service.

The consortium, led by West Cork Tourism, were expecting representatives of Aktia Savings Bank, Helsinki, to come to Cork this week for face-to-face negotiations, but it is now understood this meeting has been postponed until next week at least.

An auction was held a fortnight ago in Finland where the Cork consortium were the highest bidders for a passengerferry called the Julia.

The Finnish owned ship is valued at €10 million, and although the consortium did not meet the reserve price, it had since been hoped a deal could be made with its bank owners.

The 1,400-passengerferry previously operated between Helsinki and St Petersburg until the last year.

It is understood the bank in Finland had two meetings last week with creditors who lost money when the ferry went out of business five months ago, and a delegation had been expected to travel to Cork as a deal seemed imminent.

"There is a bit of cat and mouse going on – it's a bit frustrating for all of us," said West Cork Tourism chairman Conor Buckley, who still hopes a deal can be made.

Tourism groups and business people from Cork, Kerry and Wales, are involved in the consortium headed by West Cork Tourism, and around €2.3 million has been brought in from €3 million pledged in a coop scheme put together to purchase the ferry.

Individuals, organisations and syndicates pledged €10,000 per share for some 300 shares recently, and one share has been bought by tourism related businesses in the Muskerry Gaeltacht under the auspices of Comharchumann Forbartha Mhúscraí.

Six businesses in the Muskerry Gaeltacht are involved in the Comharchumann Mhúscraí share, in which the Comharchumann itself has invested €1,600, and other share-investors include the Blackwater Valley Tourism organisation.

The rest of the consortium is made up of private investors who are investing around €2 million, which would bring the total amount of available funds to €5 million.

With the ship valued at €10 million, it is understood a loan has been sought from the Finnish bank selling the ship to cover the rest of the purchase price.

If the consortium is successful in buying the Julia, they hope to launch the CorkSwansea ferry service within six weeks, and it is also intended to rename the ship Innisfallon after a long line of ships that previously operated under that name between Ireland and Wales.

The new Innisfallon would be operated by B&I Lines under Captain Frank Allen, son of Charlie Allen who was involved in some of the early Cork-Swansea ferries.