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Dunaverty Ltd Celebrates Successful First Year of Rathlin Island ferry service with expansion plans and sustainability focus.

16th April 2024
Rathlin Island ferry service - Charles Stewart, Director at Dunaverty Ltd, Dawn Hynes, Managing Director at Dunaverty Ltd and Robert Lynn, Business Manager at Danske
Rathlin Island ferry service - Charles Stewart, Director at Dunaverty Ltd, Dawn Hynes, Managing Director at Dunaverty Ltd and Robert Lynn, Business Manager at Danske

Dunaverty Ltd, the operators of the ferry service to Rathlin Island off the coast of County Antrim, have successfully completed their first year in business.

The company has announced that it has increased its team to 18 and transported thousands of people to the island since taking over the service in January 2023, with support from Danske Bank. When Dunaverty Ltd was awarded the vital ferry contract, it set sail with passengers within two days of the previous service halting early last year.

The company sought support from Danske Bank to restart the essential ferry service and keep the island connected to the mainland. Since then, it has expanded its fleet to two vessels, including foot and vehicle passenger boats, which sail up to ten return journeys per day.

With approximately 150 people living on Rathlin Island, daily commuters from Ballycastle and up to thousands of tourists visiting per year, Dunaverty Ltd’s investment enabled Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island to remain open for business for all those who visit, live and work there. Making the service more sustainable is also a key priority for Dunaverty Ltd.

The company has taken part in the Climate Action Programme, which Danske Bank co-developed with Business in the Community to help businesses monitor and reduce their carbon footprint and prepare their business for the future. Charles Stewart, Director at Dunaverty Ltd, said, “The ferry service to Rathlin Island is a vital link for the people of our local community, and we had to act quickly to take over the service last year. Danske Bank was instrumental in helping us achieve that, and they continue to support us as we develop our business plan and improve the sustainability of our business.”  He further added, “We are now focusing on futureproofing the at-sea service and investing in our operations to implement further staff training, develop a tailored ticketing system, and engaging with the island community through community association forums.”

Robert Lynn, Business Manager at Danske Bank, said, “A service such as the Rathlin Island Ferry is simply not one that we can do without in Northern Ireland, and so we were pleased to work with the Dunaverty Ltd team in keeping this vital connection between the island and the mainland. The team has been incredibly proactive, and to grow their business from the ground up to where it is now in one year is impressive. We are looking forward to supporting Dunaverty Ltd as they develop the business and continue to focus on improving the sustainability of their operations.” With the success of their first year, Dunaverty Ltd is looking forward to the future and continuing to provide an essential service to the people of Rathlin Island and the surrounding areas. Team

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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!