A proposed cross-border car ferry linking Down and Louth could provide a €10m a year boost for the counties, an economic study has predicted.
The service from Greencastle in Northern Ireland across Carlingford Lough to Greenore in the Republic of Ireland would create 24 direct jobs and create and sustain 300 additional jobs in the wider area, according to consultants who conducted an economic impact assessment.
The research was commissioned by the private sector backers behind the project.
The ferry route, which is close to the mouth of the lough, could be operating before the planned Narrow Water bridge is opened further up the waterway.
The Carlingford Ferries consortium behind the project is made up of three families from Limerick and Clare with previous experience in the car ferry industry in the Shannon region.
Complementing the new bridge, the investors believe it would create a circular tourism route between the Mourne region and the Cooley Peninsula.
As well as the economic survey, the developers have also commissioned an environmental impact assessment as well as engaging with local communities.
They hope to submit proposals to the planning authorities both sides of the border early next year with the aim of getting the service running within 12 months.
Paul O’Sullivan of Carlingford Ferries said: “We have several decades of experience in the ferry industry and have been working on this project for almost six years.
“We have already made a significant investment in progressing it to this stage.
“This project would have a major impact on the cross-border tourism potential of the iconic and outstandingly beautiful Mournes-Cooley region.
“It is important to us that we continue to develop this project in an inclusive manner in harmony with the local communities.
“The announcement of funding and planning for a bridge at Narrow Water gives this project renewed vigour.
“Tourists in particular, would have the option to complete a circular 35 mile round trip of the area and local people for the first time could enjoy the novelty of crossing the border at two different points on the water by car.
“We have experience of managing car ferries in other parts of Ireland and we believe that this link between Greencastle and Greenore would be a massive boost for the area.
“We are investing private funding in the project and hope to work through final plans in the coming months and submit planning applications in the first quarter of 2013.”