State Archives: Extra funding refused for Cork-Swansea ferry

The then minister for tourism and transport, John Wilson, vehemently opposed a Cork Swansea Ferries request for IR£1.75m state funding at the end of 1988.

State Archives: Extra funding refused for Cork-Swansea ferry

The then minister for tourism and transport, John Wilson, vehemently opposed a Cork Swansea Ferries request for IR£1.75m state funding at the end of 1988.

It was the third time the company had sought financial assistance from the Government since it began operating services on the Cork-Swansea route just over 18 months earlier.

State papers show that the Department of Tourism and Transport believed there was no justification in terms of transport policy for continuing to make exchequer funds available to Cork Swansea Ferries.

A briefing note for Mr Wilson recorded: “The shipping company shows no prospect of commercial viability either now or at any time in the future.”

The department said it viewed the route as “inherently loss-making”, although it acknowledged that the service played a role in helping the development of tourism in the south-west of Ireland.

Cork Swansea Ferries secured financial assistance of IR£1.1m, of which IR£500,000 came from the Exchequer to begin operating the route in April 1987.

The remainder was contributed by local authorities in Cork, Kerry and in Wales.

While it was meant to be a once-off grant, a further IR£300,000 was provided by the Government in February 1988 “on an exceptional basis” following a request from the ferry company and was specifically used for promoting its services to Cork to increase the number of tourists to the region.

Within a few months, however, it sought a third tranche of funding as well as asking Mr Wilson to intervene in the market to curb what the company claimed was “predatory competition” from B&I Line.

Cork Swansea Ferries claimed they would be unable to continue trading beyond Oct 1988 unless they got immediate assistance of IR£250,000.

The company estimated it would need working capital of IR£1.5m in 1989 which they were also seeking the State to fund.

It blamed accumulated losses which totalled IR£1.7m by the end of 1988 on the fares set by B&I Line which had also been matched by another ferry operator, Sealink.

State records released under the 30-year rule show that Mr Wilson was “totally opposed” to the provision of any more funding to the company as he had encouraged all ferry companies to reduce their fares to the lowest economic level possible because of increased competition from airlines.

In the end, Mr Wilson advised the Government that if it decided to provide further funding to Cork Swansea Ferries it should be limited to IR£500,000.

Cork Swansea Ferries continued operating services on the route up to 2006.

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