Licences to operate boats to Skellig Michael out to tender

Heritage groups have expressed concern about rise in the number of people visiting

The popularity of the site has increased since it appeared in the Star Wars film series.

Licences to operate boats that will ferry tourists to and from Skellig Michael have been put out to tender by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Boat operators charge between €85 and €100 per person to bring visitors to the Unesco world heritage site which lies 11.5km off the southwest coast.

Fifteen 12-seater boats serve the island under a permit system. The OPW said no permit fees apply to the boat operators and it does not collect a fee from visitors. It cost the OPW €510,000 to run the site last year.

The OPW said successful applicants for boating licenses will be given the right to land visitors on Skellig Michael, where, because of conservation concerns, the number of visitors is strictly limited.


The competition is designed to fully set out how the boat operators will meet the needs of visitors travelling to and from the island safely.

“As with previous competitions of this type in 2016 and 2017, applicants will be assessed on issues including the qualifications and experience of the personnel, the quality of the vessel and their approach to excellent standards of safety,” said the OPW.

Interested parties must complete an application form and submit it to the OPW by January 21st.

Thereafter, a three person panel will examine all the documentation submitted and announce the 15 successful applicants who will hold the right to land passengers on the Island for up to three years, starting in the 2019 visitor season.

Skellig Michael is open to visitors between mid-May and September 30th. Heritage groups have expressed concern about a “continuous rise” in the number of people visiting the 6th century monastic island off the Co Kerry coast.

The popularity of the site, considered one of the greatest remote scenes of early Christendom, has increased since it appeared in the Star Wars film series and due to the numbers using the Wild Atlantic Way tourism route.

An Taisce’s Charles Stanley-Smith said the “fragile and unique site” was visited by 16,755 people last year, 5,000 more than in 2015 and far in excess of the suggested 11,000 included in a management plan presented to Unesco in 2008.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter