Ferry firm must find €1m by today

The operators of the Cork to Swansea ferry service must secure over €1m in investment before midday today to save the company after being thrown a €300,000 funding lifeline by Cork’s local authorities.

Cork City Council agreed last night to invest €100,000 in the Fastnet Line, bringing its total investment in the company to €365,000.

It followed a 90-minute behind closed doors presentation by Fastnet Line’s acting chief executive officer, Pádraic O’Kane. He is due to meet Enterprise Ireland this morning to discuss further investment. He declined to discuss the amount involved, but it is understood to be in the region of €400,000.

Finance Wales will await the outcome of those talks before it agrees to pump up to €800,000 in to the firm.

Speaking after last night’s city council meeting, Mr O’Kane said: “The goodwill is incredible in relation to getting in behind this. It’s not about the company. The company is a mechanism to bring tourism into this region, and into the Welsh region. It’s worth on an annual basis in the region of €30m to this region, and £20m to £25m to the Welsh region. But this is a good day for tourism in what is already a really tough environment to get tourism in.”

Earlier, he briefed Cork’s county councillors in public, after which they agreed to invest €200,000 in the company, bringing its total investment to €500,000.

Kerry County Council will vote on its €100,000 investment on Feb 20, Enterprise Ireland will sign off on its expected investment on Feb 8, with Finance Wales expected to sanction its investment this morning.

Fastnet Line’s examiner, Michael McAteer, is due to present details of all the investment, together with the company’s new business plan, to Mr Justice Peter Kelly at the High Court this afternoon.

During the course of two briefings yesterday, Mr O’Kane told Cork’s local authorities a major restructuring plan would ensure the company’s viability.

He said the co-operative acknowledged mistakes had been made. He said the “new structures, including a new operating company board, led by chairman elect, John Williams, will ensure best practice will be as standard”.

Instead of a year-round service, Mr O’Kane said the ferry would only operate between April and September, reducing its sailings from 280 to 142.

It plans to reduce passenger and crew numbers and it has struck a deal with the Finish bank which sanctioned the loan to buy the MV Julia ship to reduce repayments. The bank has agreed no interest payments would be made in the next 10 months and interest-only payments would accrue 18 months after that.

Mr O’Kane said that a further €500,000 would be set aside to properly market the company, with a special focus on Cork City tourist attractions. He also predicted the Fastnet Line would have operational profitability this year.


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