Study urges shared design for island ferries

 

REMOTE ISLAND communities off the Irish and Scottish coastlines could benefit from a common ferry and harbour design, according to a new cross-border study.

Such a “one-design” approach would save money and allow for shared expertise and greater transport reliability, the study part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund has found.

Three Irish and five Scottish islands formed the basis for the report, which has been presented to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey.

The experience of Donegal’s Arranmore and Tory islands and Rathlin, Co Antrim, contributed to the analysis, which was also focused on five island routes off the west coast of Scotland.

The study was undertaken by Grant Thornton consultants for Mr Carey’s department, in conjunction with Northern Ireland regional development and Scottish state ferry company Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).

All eight island routes studied are subject to public service contracts, where the provision of vessels by the operator is a requirement.

In Scotland, the vessels are owned by CMAL – a public corporation wholly owned by the Scottish government, with vessels provided to ferry operators on a “bareboat” charter basis.

The study notes that island ferry routes have suffered from lack of investment over the years, with many roll-on/roll-off ferries aged between 23 and 37 years. Target replacement age is 25 years for such vessels.

The consultants found that the older vessels required increasing maintenance, often on a “make do and mend” basis which was neither efficient nor physically sustainable in the long term – and had safety implications.

The consultants found the situation to be complicated by the cost of such vessels, even second-hand, due to their scarcity in the marketplace.

The consultants also looked at harbour facilities, and found infrastructure to be “inappropriate or inadequate” in some locations.