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National Transport Authority Make Decision On Cancelled WB Yeats Sailings in Summer 2018

28th January 2019

#ferries - The National Transport Authority has announced its decision concerning cancellation of WB Yeats sailings by Irish Ferries last summer and which has led the NTA today to serve notices on the operator that has two months to comply regarding maritime regulations. 

The NTA a statutory non-commercial body, which operates under the aegis of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS), issued information below on the cancelled sailings. In addition related documentation (pdf) downloads available from links on the NTA's website (see bottom of page). 

The National Transport Authority (the “Authority”) is designated pursuant to a 2012 Statutory Instrument as the National Enforcement Body for the enforcement of EU Regulation 1177/2010 concerning the rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 (the “Maritime Regulation”).

The objective of the Maritime Regulation is to ensure a high level of protection to passengers using waterborne transport anywhere in the European Union.

Under the European Union (Rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway) Regulations 2012 (SI No. 394 of 2012) (the “2012 Statutory Instrument”), the Authority, either on its own initiative or following a complaint to it by a passenger, being of the opinion that a provider is failing to comply with or is infringing the Maritime Regulation is required to cause to be served on the provider a notice specifying the failure or infringement concerned and requiring the provider to take such measures as are specified in the notice, within such period as may be specified, for the purposes of complying with the notice.

A provider on whom a notice is served may, within 21 days of the service of the notice, make representations to the Authority.  The Authority is required to consider any such representations and shall by notice, confirm, modify or withdraw the notice.

On 21st April, 2018, Irish Ferries made a public announcement that they had been informed by the German Shipyard, FSG (which was building the new ferry, ‘WB Yeats’, for Irish Ferries) that its delivery to Irish Ferries was likely to be delayed.  Irish Ferries stated that, while this delay was not yet fully confirmed by the shipyard, they had, in the interest of minimising the level of potential disruption to its customers, taken the decision to cancel a number of affected sailings in July, from the 12th to 29th of July inclusive from Dublin to Cherbourg and Cherbourg to Dublin.

Subsequently, on the 12th of June 2018, Irish Ferries further announced that “due to extraordinary circumstances beyond its control, the delivery of the WB Yeats has been further delayed by FSG” and advised that it had no option but to cancel all the planned sailings to France for ‘WB Yeats’ for the Summer.

The National Transport Authority received correspondence from passengers relating to the cancellations.

As the National Enforcement Body, the Authority investigated into the circumstances giving rise to the cancellations that occurred and their consequences to ascertain whether there was compliance with the provisions of the Maritime Regulation, in particular Article 18 and Article 19.  The Authority engaged extensively with Irish Ferries in this regard. 

Article 18 of the Maritime Regulation relates to what is to be offered by the carrier to impacted passengers in the event of cancelled or delayed departures, namely, the choice between:-

(a) re-routing to the final destination, under comparable conditions, as set out in the transport contract, at the earliest opportunity and at no additional cost,

(b) reimbursement.

Article 19 of the Maritime Regulation relates to the payment of compensation if requested by passengers in the event of delay in arrival at the final destination as set out in the transport contract.  This is based on a % of the ticket price.  Article 19 of the Maritime Regulation sets out that, without losing the right to transport, passengers may request compensation from the carrier if they are facing a delay in arrival at the final destination as set out in the transport contract.  Compensation is 25% or 50% of the ticket price depending on the scheduled duration of the journey and extent of the delay experienced.

Article 20(4) of the Regulation provides an exemption to Article 19 for carriers in the event that the carrier proves that the cancellation or delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship or by “extraordinary circumstances” hindering the performance of passenger services and which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

The Authority was not satisfied that the unavailability of ‘WB Yeats’ is an extraordinary circumstance hindering the performance of the cancelled passenger services which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

The Board of the Authority formed the opinions that Irish Ferries failed or is failing to comply with and has infringed or is infringing Article 18 and Article 19 of the Maritime Regulation on the 19th of October 2018 and authorised the serving of notices on Irish Ferries. 

Two separate Notices (an Article 18 Notice and an Article 19 Notice) were served on Irish Ferries on the 22nd of October 2018 specifying the failures/infringements in relation to Article 18 and Article 19 of the Maritime Regulation and requiring Irish Ferries to take the measure(s) specified in the Notices, namely to

-          pay compensation to impacted passengers who have already requested compensation from Irish Ferries for the delay in arrival at the final destination as set out in the transport contract, where such delay falls within the criteria set out in Article 19(1)(a) – (d) of the Maritime Regulation, in accordance with the provisions of Article 19 of the Maritime Regulation, and

-          in relation to passengers impacted by the cancelled sailings, where such impacted passengers had to travel to and from Rosslare (rather than Dublin) and/or to and from Roscoff (rather than Cherbourg), Irish Ferries is to reimburse any additional costs incurred by the impacted passengers in travelling to and from Rosslare rather than Dublin and to and from Roscoff rather than Cherbourg.

Irish Ferries submitted representations to the Authority in response to the Article 18 Notice and Article 19 Notice pursuant to the 2012 Statutory Instrument.  These representations were reviewed and discussed by the Board of the Authority. 

The Board of the Authority at its Board Meeting on the 25th January 2019 decided to confirm the Article 18 Notice and the Article 19 Notice and notices pursuant to Regulation 4(2) of the 2012 Statutory Instrument were served on Irish Ferries on 28th January 2019. 

Irish Ferries have a period of 2 months to comply with the Notices.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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