Cork ferry embarks on new life as floating hotel

It is a rather ignominious end for the ferry once billed as one of the jewels in Cork tourism industry.

The MV Julia will sail out of Cork tomorrow to embark on a new life — a floating dormitory for workers building and servicing offshore wind turbines in the North Sea.

It is the final chapter in the short and troubled life of the Fastnet Line, which was set up by West Cork Tourism Co-operative.

The 30-year-old ship, which had capacity for 1,860 passengers, made its maiden voyage on the Cork-Swansea route in Mar 2010.

She was bedeviled by mechanical problems in the first few days of operation, and in Nov 2011 the service was withdrawn due to higher-than-expected fuel prices.

It had been hoped to restart the route this year, but the Fastnet Line went into receivership last month.

The vessel had been sold, reportedly for €5m, to C-BED, a Dutch-based company.

It had been managed during the receivership process by Cork-based Barry Shipping Ltd, which completed the transfer of the vessel to C-BED last Wednesday.

The Julia, which will be renamed Wind Perfection, will undergo an extensive refit in Holland before she takes up a charter with Siemens next October.

Port of Cork commercial manager Michael McCarthy said the ship would be used as a floating hotel for wind turbine industry workers.

It is being used by Siemens to save valuable time and money which would be incurred in the daily transfer of construction workers to and from the mainland.

Mr McCarthy said it was “very shocking” to see the Fastnet Line service fail.

“We [the Port of Cork] remain convinced that there is a viable ferry route between the ports of Swansea and Cork.

“Rising fuel prices have been a contributor to the failure of the service and other shipping lines servicing routes throughout Europe have seen their profits reduced due to many factors.

“However, they are still in operation and overnight ferries are still very popular.”

Mr McCarthy said that tourism combined with adequate patronage from freight companies would make the route viable.

“Yes, there can be a viable business with proper finance and keeping the cost base down.”

It is estimated the ferry would have carried about 75,000 passengers this year if it had not been withdrawn from service.

Cllr Tim Lombard, mayor of Co Cork, said: “The loss of the ferry will have a major knock-on effect in the South-West’s tourism business. We now have to redouble our efforts to secure a new service.”

It is believed the ferry service was directly responsible for tourists spending €35m annually in the region.

“As a local authority we will have to lead the charge to get the ferry back and we should be working with the port authorities in Cork and Swansea to do this,” said Cllr Lombard.

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