The Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey T.D. was today (28/09/10) presented with the report of the Small Ferries Project, a unique INTERREG funded study undertaken to establish the best way to design, build and procure a replacement fleet of small ferries to deliver lifeline ferry services for island and other geographically remote communities off the Irish and Scottish coastlines.
A reception was held at the National Gallery of Ireland today to mark completion of the project, which saw Minister Carey's Department collaborate with the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland and Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) in Scotland to examine ideas for a common design and procurement strategy for small ferries.
Three Irish islands, Árainn Mhór and Toraigh in County Donegal and Rathlin off the north Antrim coast, along with five Scottish routes formed the basis for this study. With many of the vessels in service on these routes approaching or exceeding their target replacement age of 25 years, the issue of procuring new vessels and improving harbour infrastructure is key to ensuring that communities have access to lifeline ferry services which are reliable, convenient and affordable. The Small Ferries Project partners have, therefore, developed a Strategic Plan to inform policy makers in their respective administrations with regard to the procurement of replacement ferry vessels.
The plan outlines a proposal for the development of a common vessel design and a cross-border collaborative approach to procuring new vessels and associated improvements in harbour infrastructure. This approach would ensure considerable cost savings in vessel procurement, allow shared expertise in researching new technologies and innovative funding mechanisms and facilitate flexibility in the operation and maintenance of the fleet.
While eight routes were examined during the course of the project, it is anticipated that the project's findings could potentially have wider reach and benefit for other routes in the three regions.
Commenting on the completion of the project, Minister Carey said: "My Department is delighted to have been involved in the Small Ferries Project over the course of the past two years. In the current economic climate, it is vital that we explore opportunities for collaboration, to ensure increased buying power, savings on administration and the cost of the vessels and shared learning that will help us to develop a more streamlined approach to ferry procurement and operation."
Minister Carey will now consider the report, as will his counterparts in Northern Ireland and Scotland, with a view to examining ways in which its recommendations may be implemented.
The eight routes identified in the report are:
• Ailt an Chorráin to Leadbh Gharbh, Árainn Mhór
• An Bun Beag/Machaire Rabhartaigh to Toraigh
• Ballycastle to Rathlin
• Tarbert to Portavadie
• Gigha to Tayinloan
• Oban to Lismore
• Tobermory to Kilchoan
• Sconser to Raasay