Kerry boat owner fined after passengers became ill

A number of passengers became violently ill on a small passenger boat which “rolled heavily” on a rough voyage to Skellig Michael, the Unesco World Heritage site, so much so that a complaint was lodged with the Department of Transport, a court in Kerry was told yesterday.

On a later date on the same vessel, the Flying Horse, an emergency occurred and passengers again complained.

The owner of the Flying Horse, which operates between Ballinskelligs and Skellig Michael, and two other accused, appeared on a number of summonses at Cahersiveen District Court.

A number of people who were on board The Flying Horse on April 7, 2012 had become “violently ill” and the vessel had rolled heavily in the waters. Two people who complained after the voyage were in court to give evidence, prosecuting barrister Tom Rice said.

Mr Rice said there were 29 summonses and three accused. Sean Feehan, the owner of the vessel, of Dungeagan Ballinskelligs was willing to plead guilty to three charges under the Maritime Safety and Merchant Shipping Acts. Mr Rice said he was happy with that.

“The balance of the counts against him and the matters against two others, Aidan Barry of Harbour View, Portmagee and Gary Feehan of Dungeagan, are being withdrawn,” Mr Rice said.

Mr Feehan pleaded guilty to two counts on April 7, to operating a vessel in dangerous water conditions, under the Merchant Shipping Act, and to not having an appropriate licence on the date, as required under the Maritime Safety Act.

Mr Feehan pleaded guilty that on June 29, 2013, again in the waters near the Skelligs he had failed to ensure the master of the vessel was the holder of a certificate to operate a passenger boat.

A number of people were in court to give evidence on this count also, the court heard. Captain Neil Forde of the Marine Survey Office had investigated the complaints made by passengers.

On April 7, passengers had been “subjected to a very uncomfortable trip” to the island and having arrived at Skellig Michael were unable to land. During the voyage a number of people were violently ill and the vessel had rolled heavily, Captain Forde said.

When interviewed by him, Mr Feehan said while conditions were rough, the Flying Horse was up to them, Mr Forde said. Mr Feehan’s licence expired in March 2012 and while there was an application for renewal, the vessel needed inspection.

By June 29, the licence had been granted. However, on that date another emergency arose and the man in charge of the vessel, Mr Barry, while qualified to operate a vessel, did not have the additional passenger certificate required under Merchant Shipping passenger boat regulations, Mr Forde said. The court was told he had since qualified.

Brian McInerney, defence barrister for Sean Feehan, put it to Mr Forde that, even on a good day, the crossing to the Skelligs caused people to be ill. Mr Forde agreed the journey was “quite uncomfortable”.

“It’s a particularly difficult stretch of waters,” Mr Forde said.

Waves, swirls and tides all contributed to the difficulty.

Mr McInerney said his client, who was in his 60s, had long operated in and out of the Skelligs and had no previous convictions.

“It is picturesque and beautiful but it’s a wild place, on the Wild Atlantic Way. It is such a wild place it is part of an outer-space production,” he said.

Judge James O’Connor convicted Mr Feehan on the most serious summons, of operating in dangerous water conditions, on April 7, and imposed a fine of €600; the second summons was taken into consideration. He convicted and fined Mr Feehan of the charge on June 29 and imposed a fine of €250.


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