Cancelled sailings could cost Irish Ferries owner up to €2.8m

ICG chief indicates belief that group has done more than legally required to compensate affected passengers

Irish Continental Group (ICG) will face a bill of up to €2.8 million for cancelling scheduled Dublin-Cherbourg sailings on a new ferry whose delivery has been delayed.

ICG has cancelled several sailings of its new vessel, the WB Yeats after its German builder told the company that the ferry would not be ready for its scheduled mid-July launch.

Speaking after ICG's annual general meeting in Dublin, chief executive Eamon Rothwell, said the company offered passengers booked to sail on the new craft the choice of travelling a day later or earlier on another ship, the Oscar Wilde, or their money back, as well as a €150 voucher against the cost of travelling to the continent in 2019.

ICG confirmed on Thursday that the cost of providing alternative berths on the Oscar Wilde would be €2.5 million, while Mr Rothwell noted that the vouchers could add €345,000 to this if all 2,300 affected passengers accept that offer.


“At this stage 94 per cent have chosen the option of sailing on the Oscar Wilde, 5 per cent have refused and 1 per cent have not decided,” Mr Rothwell said.

He pointed out that ICG deliberately reserved space on the Oscar Wilde in case there was a problem with the delivery of the WB Yeats.

Mr Rothwell indicated that he believed ICG had done more than legally required to compensate passengers whose trips the company cancelled.

Last month German shipbuilder Flensburger Shiffbau-Gessellschaft & Co told ICG that the WB Yeats would not be ready until “on or about” July 13th 2018 rather than its scheduled April delivery date.

As it takes weeks to prepare a ship for commercial sailing, the ferry company sought a replacement vessel. As it could not find a suitable one, it told passengers on April 20th that it would have to cancel scheduled journeys on the WB Yeats.

No guarantee

Mr Rothwell stressed that European shipbuilders generally deliver ordered vessels on time. He also warned that ICG could not guarantee that the Germany company would deliver the ship in July.

In a trading statement, ICG said that revenues rose to €96.4 million in the first four months of the year, a rise of 1.4 per cent year on year.

The ferries division saw a decline in sales, as lower charter income outweighed rises in passengers and freight. Total revenue for the period fell 2.4 per cent to €52.3 million, ICG said.

The company sold the Kaitaki in June 2017 and redeployed the Westpac Express from November 2017, bringing it into service on the Dublin - Holyhead route to replace the Jonathan Swift.

The sale of the Jonathan Swift, announced at the end of January 2018, boosted the company's net cash to €69.3 million at the end of April, compared with €39.6 million at December 31st.

The company saw a rise of 2.4 per cent year on year in the number of cars carried on Irish Ferries, with a total of 100,400 for the period. Freight rose 3.9 per cent to 99,500 roll-on, roll off units. ICG's business generates a higher proportion of its profit in the summer months.

ICG released capacity on the Oscar Wilde that had been held in case of delays, a move that had cost the company €2.5 million in lost revenue but allowed customers affected by the cancelled sailings the chance to sail the day before or the day after their planned sailing. ICG has also provided affected customers with a voucher for €150 towards a sailing to the Continent in 2019.

ICG said most customers had chosen to reroute, with 5 per cent seeking a refund and 1 per cent yet to make a decision.

In ICG's container and terminal division, total revenues rose 6.1 per cent to €46.8 million. Volumes shipped up to May 8th were up 1.1 per cent to 116,400 20-foot equivalent units, with the number of units handled at ICG's terminals in Dublin and Belfast up 4.8 per cent year on year to 109,000 lifts.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist