‘Dawn of new era’ as €7m Cork-Swansea ferry deal completed

AFTER months of negotiation, a co-operative has completed the €7.8 million deal for a car and passenger ferry that will reopen the Cork-Swansea route.

West Cork Tourism Co-Operative purchased the ferry last weekend, after finalising a deal with Finnish financial institutions for The Julia, which has a capacity for 1,860 passengers.

Conor Buckley, the co-operative chairman, said The Julia – which will operate under the Fastnet Line brand – will arrive in Cork in the coming weeks to proclaim the dawn of a new era for the south-west region.

West Cork Tourism began its campaign at the beginning of the year to raise €2.6m to get the Cork-Swansea route back up and running. Finnish bank, Aktia Bank, and its finance company, Aktia Yritysrahoitus Oy, has supported the acquisition through the provision of a mortgage of €6.3m. The Julia, built in 1982, has sailed several routes in the Scandinavian region.

She has 10 decks with maximum capacity for approximately 440 cars and 30 lorries. Mr Buckley said the ship has a fine array of restaurants and bars, a children’s play area, a cinema and more than 300 passenger cabins, rendering her particularly suited to the night crossing between Cork and Swansea.

The Julia will commence service on the Cork-Swansea route in March 2010 and expects to enjoy strong demand from both tourist and freight customers. Fastnet Line believes it will contribute greatly to the development and promotion of tourism in Cork, Kerry and surrounding areas, creating more than 500 jobs and bringing thousands of tourists directly to the region annually. Mr Buckley said an additional €2.5m is now required to fund the working capital requirements of the business.

He said the co-op will be arranging a series of road shows to brief its members and prospective members on its plans in the coming weeks. “The coming weeks and months will continue to be crucial to us to gain the working capital to aid the development of the organisation. So we are looking forward to meeting with potential investors from all over the south-west region and beyond,” Mr Buckley said.

Welsh Assembly minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said the ferry service has the potential to bring economic benefits to both countries. Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said he looked forward to working with the co-operative and the Fastnet Line through marketing campaigns.

“West Cork Tourism Co-Operative have put in continuedefforts into re-establishing the Cork to Swansea route, and I am delighted that it is now paying off. Today is a proud day for Cork and the entire south-west region,” said Captain Michael McCarthy, Port of Cork commercial manager.

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