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#CruiseLiners - A big cruiseship by Banty Bay standards involved notably a maiden call visit today to the scenic west Cork anchorage, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The megayacht-like Seabourn Quest of 32,000 tonnes had yesterday called to Cobh, Cork Harbour, before making an arrival in Bantry Bay this morning. To mark the maiden call, a reception was held on board where the harbourmaster of Bantry Bay Port Company and Bantry Business Assocation exchanged gifts with the ship's master.

Operating at the high-end of the luxury cruise-sector, Seabourn Quest has a guest capacity for only 498 passengers. The sleek twin-funnelled Seabourn Quest whose godmother is the English fashion icon and actress Twiggy, entered service in 2011. The ship regarded as a game -changer at the top end of the market was built by Italian yard of T. Mariotti yard in Genoa.

The operators claim the Spa at Seabourn is the largest on any ultra-luxury ship, at 11,400 square feet which encompasses both indoor and outdoor spaces spread over two decks.

Only Prinsendam of Holland America Line eclipses the current caller to the West Cork destination in terms of tonnage, at 39,000 tonnes. The cruiseship according to the port's website had made a call in May.

In total, 10 cruise callers are scheduled to call to Bantry Bay this season, though not all cruiseships will take anchorage off Bantry where five are planned before the season ends in September. Equally the same number of callers will by the end of season, anchor off neighbouring Glengariff with its attractions, among them Garnish Island.

The next port of call for Seabourn Quest is Foynes, where the Shannon estuary port is a more unusual destination to receive cruiseships. 

Published in Cruise Liners

Mechanical harvesting of sub-tidal seaweed was set to begin today (Wednesday 4 July) in Bantry Bay.

Operations by BioAtlantis Aquamarine Ltd, using the Atlantis Explorer (Callsugn EIPQ2) are expected to continue for the duration of the licence until 2024. Harvesting will take place in Areas A, B, C, D and E of the licence area, details of which are included in Marine Notice No 29 of 2018, available to read or download HERE.

The harvesting operations are proceeding despite a High Court challenge to the project by a number of environmental groups, according to The Irish Times.

The High Court has granted a judicial review of the licence awarded in November last year, and opposed by the Bantry Bay - Save Our Kelp Forests group, among others, for its alleged potential to “irreversible damage to the ecosystem and businesses of the Bantry Bay area”.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

#Tallships - A pair of ships, one a Danish trainee tallship, the other a former Norwegian 'Hurtigruten' coastal passenger/cargoship but trading now as a cruiseship, are anchored closely to each other off Bantry, Co. Cork today, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The tallship is Danmark, which provides 80 trainees to learn sailing skills from MARTEC- the maritime and polytechnic college based in the Nordic country's cityport of Frederikshavn. 

For the past 75 years, Danmark has been the principal training ship for the state of Denmark. From 2003, the operation of the trainee ship transferred to MARTEC, however the vessel still remains as state property. A major refit of the berth decks took place just over a decade ago, this led to an upgrade of the teaching facilities and the installation of air-conditioning.

The other Bantry Bay anchored ship, Serenissima, is a small luxury expedition cruiseship that once plied on the famous Norwegian 'Hurtigruten' coastal fjords voyage when named the Harald Jarl.

Since 2003, the role of the the ship changed having been sold to become the 59 cabin capacity cruiseship Andrea but now trades as Serenissima for Noble Caledonia. They deployed the 160 passenger cruiseship to Irish ports among them Dun Laoghaire Harbour where a call was made last season. 

Serenissima had called to the same berth where the Frederikshavn registered Stena Carrier in recent weeks occupied the Carlisle Pier.  The pier provided the venue last Sunday for the Red Bull Flug-Tag event that saw handmade aircraft attempted to take off! 

The Danmark's trainee season schedule for 2018 is currently operating Voyage no. 105. According to MARTEC, trainees began attending the maritime sea-craft skills school in January, and by March the ship departed the waters of Scandinavia bound for Cadiz, Spain.

The tallship's last port of call was Ponta Delgada. This is the capital on São Miguel Island, part of the Azores archipelago of Portugal. 

Danmark was commissioned by the ship's namesake government in 1932 at the Nakskov Shipyard in Lolland and was fitted out as a three mast full-rig ship. The decision of this rig was seen as the most complex and therefore demanding to keep most hands busy when the ship entered service the following year.

For many years, all officer apprentices from major Danish shipping companies joined a mandatory training voyage.

In 1939, Danmark visited the United States to participate in the World’s Fair held in New York City. The outbreak of hostilities of WWII however on the other side of the Altantic, forced the ship to stay in US waters to avoid the Germans capturing the vessel.

During the war, Danmark was based in Jacksonville, Florida. It was after the attack on Pearl Harbor, that the captain offered the ship to the U.S. government for the continued purposes as a training vessel. The offer was accepted which led to the ship spending the rest of the war by training cadets at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

This role in the USCG would remain until 1946 when the Danmark was returned unharmed, resulting in resuming training duties for the Scandinavian state.

Published in Tall Ships

#BantryBay - MS Prinsendam of Holland America Line made her maiden call to Bantry Bay Harbour writes West Cork Times on what was to be the first visit of a cruise liner to Bantry in almost 30 years.

Carrying more than 800 passengers, MS Prinsendam arrived in the early hours of the morning and will stay until evening ensuring their passengers get every opportunity to explore the region.

Speaking about the arrival of MS Prinsendam to Bantry, Bantry Bay Port Company Harbour Master Captain Paul O’Regan said, “We are very encouraged by Holland American Lines commitment to call to Bantry. This is an exciting time for the whole of West Cork as we aim to grow this cruise business considerably over the next few years.

“We have the experience and professionalism within the Port of Cork of what needs to be achieved to grow the cruise business here, and Bantry Bay Port Company is fully committed. The unique selling point with Bantry is to attract the smaller boutique cruises or expedition cruises which can access smaller ports and harbour, meaning their passengers can benefit from a richer experience onshore.”

For more on this story click here.

Published in Cruise Liners

#CoastalNotes - While Bantry Bay prepares to open up as a maritime hub for Ireland’s South West, local coastal residents are expressing concern over the first State licence for the mechanical harvesting of seaweed.

As the Irish Examiner reports, Kerry-based BioAtlantis secured the licence after a five-year application process — but now faces growing opposition from local communities, many of which have hand-harvested seaweed for hundreds of years, who claim lack of consultation over the plans.

Pantry resident Deirdre Fitzgerald said the issue only came to wider public attention earlier this year, when an episode of RTÉ One’s Eco Eye detailed the planned harvest of nearly 2,000 acres of kelp forest.

“We have white tailed eagles resident in the bay, whales, dolphins, seals, otters, and so many bird species that rely on this bay for food,” she told the Irish Examiner. “What will be the impact on juvenile fish as a food source for all these species once this kelp is removed from the bay?”

However, BioAtlantis chief executive John T O’Sullivan said “everything was done by the book” in relation to its application process. The Irish Examiner has much more on this story HERE.

In other coastal news, objectors to Galway Bay’s marine energy test site have questioned the legality of the foreshore lease application, pointing out that a number of key documents were not included, according to the Connacht Tribune.

The same newspaper also reports on claims of “outrageous” public expenditure on the now-shelved Galway Bay fish farm project, a controversial scheme that cost the State more than half a million euro.

Published in Coastal Notes

Bantry Bay is one of this island’s greatest maritime resources and is about to be opened up with a new marina very close to the centre of the town. Twenty-two miles long from its entrance and with 22 slipways and launching areas, plus a couple of islands, this can be a cruising mecca.

The Port of Cork Company which took over Bantry Harbour from the previous local harbour authority, has spent €9.5m. on the development of facilities there, turning the old pier area into a more extensive commercial facility, improving depth of access and providing in the inner harbour, a new marina. The development will operate under the aegis of the Bantry Bay Port Company.

All of this promises a new future for the harbour and Bantry as a maritime hub, not only for the leisure sailor, but for angling, fishing, other maritime activities and attracting more cruise ship visits by the improve facilities. The marina will provide 30/40 berths dependent upon size of vessel, dredged to a depth of 4 metres.

On this week’s THIS ISLAND NATION PODCAST, Cork and Bantry Harbour Master, Captain Paul O’Regan, outlines the development to me. I started by observing that nine-and-a-half million Euros was a big financial commitment to Bantry.

Published in Island Nation

New navigation buoys have been installed at the entrance to Lawrence Cove, near the village of Rerrin on Bere Island, one of the most sheltered harbours in Bantry Bay on Ireland's South–West coast. 

A marina at Lawrence Cove is located opposite the fishing port of Castletownberehaven at the North side of Bere Island. Lawrence Cove Marina is the only fully serviced marina between Kinsale and Cahirciveen making it an important stop–over location for cruising yachts.

Published in Coastal Notes

Bantry Bay Port Company has launched its first Schools Initiative for 2016 aimed at 5th class primary schools.

The initiative theme ‘A Day in the Life of a Cruise Passenger Visiting Bantry Harbour’ is aimed at encouraging school children to explore the tourism aspect of Bantry harbour and all the wonderful visitor attractions to see and enjoy in the West Cork region.

Tourism plays a vital role in Bantry Bay Port Company’s business with a number of small cruise liners visiting the harbour each year. These cruise passengers and crew visit West Cork during the summer months, bringing a welcome economic tourism contribution to the region.

All 5th classes who participate in the Bantry Bay Port Company’s initiative will be invited on a boat trip around beautiful Garnish Island, compliments of Bantry Bay Port Company. An award will also be given for ‘Best Artwork Piece’ and each participating class and teacher will receive a Class Certificate of Participation.

Captain Paul O’Regan, Bantry Bay Port Company Harbour Master said: “We are excited to be launching our Bantry Bay Port Company Schools Initiative. The initiative is a great way for primary school children to learn about the history of Bantry port and the role it plays in the region. The theme this year relates to cruise tourism and this is an area Bantry Bay Port Company will be aiming to increase in the coming years.’

He continued: ‘Many local families are involved in tourism either directly or indirectly and so it’s important that children understand tourism and the business it generates for the region. We hope our initiative will make learning fun for the school children.’

Projects must contain a high level of visual content and can contain photographs as well as artwork. The creativity of each project will be taken into account when being judged as well as visual impact, originality, content and presentation. Bantry Bay Port Company will provide each participating school with a piece of ply-wood 2ft x 2ft and this must be used for the project. Closing date for submissions is Friday 6th May 2016. All submitted projects will go on public display in Bantry during the summer months.

To register your primary school or for further information, please visit the Bantry Bay Port Company website

Published in Cruise Liners

Total traffic through the Port of Cork and Bantry Bay Port Company in 2015 reached a total of 11 million tonnes. Total Trade traffic at the Port of Cork reached 9.8 million tonnes up a significant 10% on 2014 traffic figures. Bantry Bay Port Company dropped slightly from 1.3 million tonnes in 2014 to 1.1 million tonnes in 2015. These figures are extremely positive for the port and show trade is beginning to return to pre-recession times.

Total container volumes through both Tivoli and Ringaskiddy Container Terminals in the Port of Cork grew by 8% compared to 2014 figures with over 205,000 TEU’s handled. This is very encouraging particularly as the Port received planning permission to move all container operations to Ringaskiddy in the near future. Dry bulk cargos such as animal feed, increased by 2% in 2015 while fertilisers and cereals both decreased slightly.

Liquid bulk cargo, predominantly the oil traffic through Whitegate Oil Refinery, currently owned and operated by Phillips 66, continues to have a significant impact on the overall traffic through the Port of Cork with oil traffic in 2015 showing an increase of almost 20%. This significant increase in 2015 is attributed to an increase in demand from the domestic market as recovery takes hold and due to maintenance shut-down in the Whitegate refinery in 2014 which affected refining for a six week period. Traffic from the Bantry Bay Oil Storage Terminal is operated by Zenith Energy, which accounts for 100% of the commercial traffic through Bantry Bay Port.

Commenting on the 2015 trade traffic results, Port of Cork Chairman Mr. John Mullins said: ‘We are pleased with the total trade traffic figures across both Bantry and Cork in 2015. Achieving traffic figures which are in line with pre-recessionary time highlights the beginning of the positivity returning to the market and I am confident that we can sustain this growth across 2016. Container traffic increased by 8% indicating the confidence in the consumer market for imports and the growth of exports in the agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors. The Port’s move to Ringaskiddy is vitally important to meet expected further growth in this market.’

He continued “Whitegate oil Refinery operated by Phillips 66 is a key customer within the port and we are extremely encouraged to see oil traffic up compared to 2014. Phillips 66 currently has the refinery on the market for sale and we would remain hopeful that it would be sold as an operating refinery.”

The Port of Cork cruise business grows year on year with 55 scheduled cruise liners calling to Cork in 2015. In total these liners carried in excess of 145,000 passengers and crew to the region. These transit visitors are an excellent economic stimulus for Cork, bringing a welcome boost to the local economy for eight months of the year. The Port of Cork has completed work on upgrading the facilities at Cobh Cruise Terminal and can now handle ‘Quantum Class’ vessels, which are the largest liners operating in Europe today. The Port of Cork continues to work closely with cruise lines to increase calls to both Port of Cork and Bantry Bay.

Brittany Ferries had another very positive year with their seasonal service from Cork to Roscoff carrying 84,378 passengers in 2015. This figure is up compared with 2014 and it is hoped that 2016 will be another busy year for Brittany Ferries when sailings resume.

In 2015 the Port of Cork was granted planning permission for the Ringaskiddy Port Redevelopment which is a milestone for the Port of Cork and particularly the Munster region. According to Chairman Mr. Mullins, receiving planning permission for the Ringaskiddy Port Redevelopment has given the organisation a renewed confidence in the future of trade for the Cork region. He said; ‘Not only is this a great boost for our company but most importantly for our customers, who can now confidently plan for the future, knowing the port has the capacity to accommodate their growth.’

Following a public tender process in November, advance works on the project are due to begin in January 2016. These advance works are a positive step in terms of the Ringaskiddy port redevelopment and will include site clearance to the proposed container compound area which will serve to prepare the site to ensure the main works are not delayed. The next step is to launch the main works tender process in April 2016, with a view to contract being awarded in Q3 2016. It is estimated that 849 FTE jobs will be created during the construction of the Ringaskiddy Redevelopment Project which the Port aims to have operating by Q4 2018.

The Port of Cork is committed to seeking out new business opportunities for the Port and in particular, the agri-food business will be a key sector which the Port of Cork is keen to develop. Other areas include the offshore oil exploration field and of course establishing new trade links from Cork.

The Port of Cork Schools Initiative is now in its eleventh year and aims to educate 5th class primary school children about the rich history associated with Cork Harbour and to highlight the importance of having a local port to facilitate the connectivity to world markets. The initiative also gives children a better understanding of where cargo comes from and how Ireland, as an island depends on Ports for trading. This year’s theme (2016) ‘A Day in the Life of a Cruise Passenger Visiting Cork’ focuses on the leisure and tourism aspect of the harbour, county and city and encourages school children to see what their region has to offer international visitors.

The Port of Cork’s recreational strategy continues to expand with the aim of improving the marine leisure facilities around Cork Harbour and the Port of Cork continues to be an ongoing supporter many of the local harbour festivals and events, local sporting clubs in the harbour and cultural events in the city.

Published in Port of Cork

#BantryBay - Sea Explorer I entered the scenic seclusion of Glengariff in Bantry Bay today and where the mere 90m vessel of 4,200 tonnes anchored off Garnish Island, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 114 guest luxury small ship, part of the cruise agency operator Noble Caledonia fleet is according to Bantry Bay Port Company schedule to be the only caller so far listed for 2015.

Accommodation of the 1991 Italian built vessel is of 57 spacious suites and all outside with an average of 245 sq ft. Facilities offered are of a high standard albeit on board an intimate sized ship.

Yesterday she had been to St. Peter Port, Guernsey again at an anchorage along with Cunard Line's 90,080 tonnes Queen Victoria. The Cunarder had departed Southampton at the weekend to mark the start of the company's 175th anniversary with a celebratory cruise in company down Solent water.

Tomorrow she calls to Cobh on the centenary of the RMS Lusitania disaster during WW1.

Last month the Port of Cork outlined plans for Phase 1 of the Bantry Inner Harbour Development (incl 20-berth marina) which will be undertaken on behalf of its subsidiary company, Bantry Bay Port Company.

Over two years ago Sea Explorer (see photo) arrived to Dun Laoghaire Harbour albeit in a 'lay-up' mode in advance to taking up a European season with cruises starting in June 2013.

She is equipped with Zodiacs for expedition landings and for reaching isolated locations.

Another expedition / polar cruiseship Fram with 400 passengers and operated by Norwegia based Hurtigruten was understood to be the first caller to Galway Harbour this season.

The call of the Fram took place at the end of April and likewise of the 'Explorer' this involved anchoring offshore.

Published in Cruise Liners
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