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Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC) has issued a statement on its cruise berth facility following yesterday's court case decision in which environmental lobby group Save our Seafront, chaired by local TD Richard Boyd Barret, 'won its legal action against the decision to grant planning permission for the Dún Laoghaire Cruise Terminal'.

The Harbour Company maintain its 'Cruise berth facility is on track' as An Board Pleanála seek further information the state company.

The full ramification of this decision are still being fully analysed but the DLHC statement in full is below: 

'Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC) has been informed that An Bord Pleanála will not be defending a Judicial Review of the decision of the Bord to grant planning permission to DLHC for the development of a cruise berth facility in the harbour. The Judicial Review had been taken on behalf of Save our Seafront, who had opposed the development. An Bord Pleanála has now determined that certain technical requirements of the Habitats Directive necessitate additional information to be supplied by DLHC. It is recommending that the planning application is sent back to the Bord for this additional information to be assessed. DLHC will co-operate fully with such a request by An Bord Pleanála.

Commenting, DLHC CEO Gerry Dunne pointed out that while the nature of the issues have yet to be outlined in detail they are believed to be “technical and not substantive”. Mr Dunne added that protecting the sensitive environmental and historical significance of the harbour and its environs remain a priority for DLHC.

The proposed 250 metre berth will, it is anticipated, attract c. 50 cruise calls a year (from May to September), an average of 2 a week. The money generated from these visitors will amount to €10m to the local economy annually'.

A statement from Save our Seafront, on yesterday's court case is here.

Published in Dublin Bay

It may have to take another disaster of Titanic proportions before lifesaving provisions on board cruise ships are improved.
That might seem like a bit of hyperbole – an exaggerated statement or claim not meant to be taken literally, but it came from a maritime source which deserves respect – an international forum of professionals.
• Listen to the Podcast below.

NAUTILUS is the international trade union and professional organisation representing more than 22,000 maritime professionals in the UK, theNetherlands and Switzerland. Its International Professional and Technical Forum issued that warning after a meeting in Hull in England where facts that will surprise the public about cruise ship safety were revealed.

As cruise ships get bigger and bigger, with a 6,000 passenger capacity amongst the biggest, fears have been increasingly expressed about safety and evacuation procedures, which were heightened by the Costa Concordia disaster.
It is surprising to hear that every passenger is not guaranteed a seat in a lifeboat and that some passengers, because of their size, might not even fit in lifeboat seats. According to the NAUTILUS professionals, the SOLAS, safety of life at sea regulations, only require that there is lifeboat capacity for 37.5 per cent of passengers on each side of a cruise ship, providing that liferafts increase that capacity to 125 per cent, meaning apparently that not every passenger would be catered for in a lifeboat in an emergency.

And even if seats are available, the Forum was told that seats only allow for an average mass of 75 kilograms per person and a seat with of 16.9 inches which, the professional forum concluded, does not take into account increases in the average height and weight of passengers.

The general public will be surprised by these findings, the NAUTILUS professionals said. They have called for a lifeboat seat for every passenger onboard – and a guarantee that passengers will fit into them.
The professionals said that passengers may be surprised to learn that this is not already the case.

Published in Island Nation
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Modern luxury cruise line Celebrity Cruises has become the first major cruise line to confirm Dublin Port as a 'home' port when a ship will call the city home during early summer 2018.

For five sailings commencing in late April, throughout May and until the end of June 2018, one of Celebrity Cruises’ 2,800+ guest Solstice-class ships will offer cruises throughout northern Europe from Dublin. Full details on the destinations on offer will be announced later this year. Over 14,000 people are estimated to start their cruise holiday from Dublin on a Celebrity Cruises ship in 2018.

The move is worth an estimated almost €6 million to Dublin and the surrounding area in knock-on economic benefits. Celebrity Cruises already features Dublin and other ports throughout Ireland in its European deployment, however this is the most significant increase in its investment into Ireland in the history of the global business.

Jo Rzymowska, managing director, Celebrity Cruises UK and Ireland, explains:

“Celebrity Cruises has enjoyed significant support from our travel agent partners and guests throughout Ireland for many years. Now we are saying thank you by basing one of the flagships of our fleet in Dublin for a mini season during early summer 2018. We know that our guests from around the world, and in Ireland, will love the warm welcome they receive when starting a holiday in Dublin.

“Calling Dublin home in 2018 is a major development to our European deployment. We couldn’t be more excited. Thank you to Dublin Port for their support.”

In 2016 Dublin Port has played host to over 180,000 cruise visitors on over 100 cruise ship calls, of which four were cruise ship turnarounds where the ship begins its sailing and guests embark. Celebrity Cruises’ confirmation of a mini season from Dublin in 2018 brings significant growth to the port.

Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class of ships are the newest in its fleet, all introduced between 2008 and 2012. In addition to luxury guest accommodation, designer boutiques, extensive bars and restaurants, they also feature a real grass lawn on the top deck. With extensive awards particularly for its food and wine, Celebrity Cruises boasts the largest and rarest collection of wine at sea and a host of exclusive restaurants on-board all overseen by a Michelin-starred executive chef.

Pat Ward, Dublin Port, comments:

“It has been a clear ambition of Dublin Port to attract a cruise line to offer our great city as a homeport. Today, that ambition is realised and Celebrity Cruises will be an important step-change in our history. The opportunities that this new investment will bring are extensive. We look forward to maximising this new platform for growth and welcoming yet more cruise ships and holidaymakers to Dublin for the first time.”

Celebrity Cruises sails on every continent in the world and has a fleet of 12 ships. Plus, Celebrity Cruises currently has two new ships on order, scheduled to join the fleet in 2018 and 2020 respectively, and a further two ships on option. The cruise line is part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, the second large cruise business in the world.

Published in Cruise Liners
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#CruiseLiners - A power failure on board a large cruise liner rendered the vessel adrift in the Irish Sea for nine hours earlier this week, as The Irish Times reports.

The "technical glitch" on the Caribbean Princess cut power to the engines when the 290m liner was close to the shore off Wicklow on Wednesday (3 August).

The Grand Class cruise ship was en route to Dublin Port from Cobh where it made a stopover the previous day.

Once power was restored, the vessel proceeded to the Port of Belfast, skipping its scheduled stop in Dublin – which it last visited in May, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Cruise Liners

Just before 6am this morning, the giant cruise liner Mein Schiff I sailed into Dublin Bay on overnight passage from Scotland. As soon as the ship dropped anchor in Scotsman's Bay on the Captial's south shore, small tender boats were lowered into the water from its port side and the ship began to disembark passengers to go ashore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. A Dublin Port Pilot boat accompanied the ship to its anchorage. Today, in Dun Laoghaire town, a welcome party is set to  greet the passengers. Read more: Dun Laoghaire visit of Mein Schiff.

At the same time this morning, the Magic Disney liner docked in Dublin Port.

Published in Cruise Liners

The spectacular 333m MSC Splendida, the longest ship ever to visit Dublin Port, returned to Dublin early this morning officially marking the start of Dublin Port’s 2016 cruise season. She is one of 113 cruise calls confirmed for Dublin Port this year, a record number of cruise calls in a year for Dublin Port that will bring over 180,000 visitors to experience the city’s sights and attractions.

Currently the 11th longest cruise ship in the world, the MSC Splendida arrived in Dublin from Greenock, Scotland carrying over 4,600 passengers and crew on board. Her inaugural call made maritime history when she became the longest vessel ever to visit Dublin Port last summer. She boasts a VIP section with 24 hour butler service and features more than a dozen bars and lounges, a spa and Turkish baths, four swimming pools, squash courts and a Formula 1 simulator, all spread over 18 decks. Having arrived from Greenock, Scotland, the MSC Splendida will depart Dublin at 7:45pm for Cork.

The MSC Splendida and other ships greater than 300m in length cannot turn presently within Dublin Port and therefore are brought stern first (reversed) up the Liffey. However, this complicated manoeuvre will no longer be required once the €230m Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project, which will expand capacity in Dublin Port, is complete. Larger ships will then be able to routinely call at the port and turn within the expanded Alexandra Basin West and berth as far upriver as East Link Bridge.

Pat Ward, Head of Corporate Services, Dublin Port Company, said: “We are delighted to welcome the MSC Splendida, the longest ship ever to visit Dublin Port, back to the city to mark the start of our 2016 cruise season. We are shaping up for a record year in cruise tourism, with some 113 cruise calls carrying over 180,000 visitors to the city scheduled for 2016. Highlights this season include the arrival of “Disney Magic” on her maiden call to Ireland in May, as Dublin Port becomes the first Irish port to welcome Disney Cruise Line. Dublin Port will also host the Cruise Europe Conference this year, the first time the conference is to be held in Dublin.”

Published in Cruise Liners

Fred Olsen Cruise Line will open the Port of Cork’s cruise liner season with the arrival of MV Balmoral and her 1800 passengers and crew to Cobh Cruise Terminal on Friday 1st April. This is the first of 58 liners scheduled to call in 2016. In total over 100,000 passengers and crew will arrive in the region between April and December, with some liners calling for the first time to Cobh and others on repeat visits. Princess Cruises’, MV Caribbean Princess will make ten visits to Cobh in 2016.

In 2015 the Port of Cork invested €1.5 million in upgrading the current facilities at Cobh Cruise Terminal, Ireland’s only dedicated cruise berth. The investment included installation of a number of high load mooring bollards at the east and west end of the Cobh Cruise Berth which will enable larger ships to be berthed.

Commercial Manager at the Port of Cork, Captain Michael McCarthy said: “ We are pleased with the number of calls for 2016 and the fact that we have some new customers this year, shows more and more cruise companies are considering Cobh as part of their cruising route.’

He continued: “Following the investment last year, the Port of Cork can now accommodate the larger liners or Quantum class ships without any restrictions. It is our ambition as a port company to attract these ships and increase our cruise calls to 75 per year over the next three years.’

The cruise business in Cork contributes over €4million annually to the local economy, which is a welcome boost for business in Cork City, Cork County, East Cork and West Cork.

In 2016 Bantry Bay Port Company will welcome three cruise liners to the area, one of which, MV Albatross, will call to Bantry followed by Cobh. This shows the connection between the ports and the joined up promotion of both regions to the cruise companies.

Published in Cruise Liners
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#cruiseliner – Next Wednesday (15th July), Britain's biggest cruise ship, P&O Cruises Britannia, will be making a highly anticipated maiden call into Cobh in the Port of Cork as part of her first ever British Isles cruise.

The biggest ship designed exclusively for Britain, Britannia is P&O Cruises' latest "modern classic", heralding a new era of holiday choice. Chief amongst her features are her restaurants, bars and cafes, with menus and culinary experiences created by P&O Cruises' 'Food Heroes'; James Martin, Marco Pierre White, Atul Kochhar, Eric Lanlard, wine expert Olly Smith and cheese expert Charlie Turnbull. In the new Cookery Club, a 24 person state-of-the-art cookery school, these celebrity chefs and experts will demonstrate their culinary skills, and will be joined throughout this year by other famous chefs including Mary Berry CBE, Pierre Koffmann, Paul Rankin and Commendatore Antonio Carluccio OBE.

Britannia's most outstanding design statement is reserved for her three-deck high atrium with illuminating Star Burst sculpture. She also provides the largest British spa at sea, a state-of-the-art theatre with LED wall, four pools, gym and a multi-million pound art collection including a specially commissioned representation of the "Spirit of Modern Britain" from artist Johnny Bull.

P&O Cruises marketing director Christopher Edgington said: "It is fitting that Britannia's maiden season includes a British Isles itinerary featuring calls into so many wonderful ports of call. We are excited to be able to showcase this fabulous ship in Cobh and hope that the residents of Cobh are just as excited to see her. Not only will Britannia provide a boost to the local economy but she will be spectacular addition to the Irish coastline."

Britannia is expected to arrive in Cobh carrying 3,647 passengers and 1,350 crew at 0730hrs on 15th July and will depart at 2300hrs. 

Published in Cruise Liners
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#cruiseliner – The master of a cruise liner, which was damaged going over rocky shoals has pleaded guilty to two charges at Belfast Magistrates court today (16th June).

Captain Joao Manuel Fernandes Simoes (58) pleaded guilty to failure to properly passage plan in breach of SOLAS and failure to report the incident contrary to the Merchant Shipping vessel traffic monitoring and reporting requirement regulations.

On 11th May 2015 the Bahamas registered cruise liner mv Hamburg called in to Tobermory enroute from Dublin to Hamburg.

The Bay could not be entered on arrival as there were already two other cruise liners so the Hamburg remained outside about two miles to the North East of the popular port. The call to enter came at around 1pm and a course was set direct to the port.

The track took the ship close to a starboard hand channel buoy, but the approach was from the north of the buoy, not the west, over rocky shoals. The port side grazed along the side of the rocks and the propeller struck causing the ship to temporarily black out. The port engine could no longer be used and the ship limped in to Tobermory Bay. After an internal inspection the ship was instructed by owners to proceed to Belfast.

At around 6pm, the mother of a crew member had spoken to her daughter and been told what had happened. She lost the phone signal and fearing the worst called the Irish coastguard. They in turn called the UK Coastguard, who contacted the ship.

He was fined £400 for each charge and £13 costs – a total of £813.

The judge, his honour K Nickson said he appreciated that other people were on the bridge at the time but the captain was in charge and had to take responsibility.

The Surveyor in Charge of MCA Glasgow, Fraser Heasley said: 'This incident could very nearly have ended in tragedy.

'The master failed in his duty to keep a proper lookout and to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew. Following the grounding he proceeded directly to Belfast without notifying the appropriate authorities or accurately assessing the extent of bottom damage by an underwater dive survey.'

Published in Cruise Liners
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#dlharbour – Hostile questions were asked in the Dail on Wednesday by local TD Richard Boyd Barrett on the proposed development of Dun Laoghaire Harbour as a cruise liner port. They were deflected in ministerial replies about legislation currently being drafted, and the two possible viable ways forward for the harbour's administration. But the underlying pace is accelerating towards a resolution of the future of this unique example of Victorian design, engineering and construction. W M Nixon finds that, in recent days and weeks, his views on the possible uses of this magnificent artificial harbour have undergone considerable change.

Embarrassment is a powerful stimulant for change. Change of attitude, change in ways in behaving, change in ways of looking at things, change to entrenched ways of thinking. I was hugely embarrassed by something seen in Dun Laoghaire nine days ago. And within seconds, there came a complete epiphany, with the sudden awareness that an entrenched attitude towards the development of Dun Laoghaire as a cruise liner port had turned through about 140 degrees.

It made for the complete 180 degrees, as the first 40 degrees of the turn had already been achieved a couple of weeks previously, while spending two completely absorbing if mentally exhausting hours with the maverick Alistair Rumball and his team at the Irish National Sailing School beside the inner recesses of Dun Laoghaire's inner harbour, which is still called the Coal Harbour even though it's very many years since anyone offloaded any lumps of the black gold there.

Be that as it may, as we parted we were shooting the breeze about the proposed development of Dun Laoghaire as a cruise liner port, which has been top of the local agenda since the end of March, and handily gave us one of our choicer April Fool's Day stories here on Afloat.ie - it proved so effective we had to add a health warning.

When a story provides you with something like that, you develop a certain affection for it. So while Alistair and I agreed that that the absolute dream solution for Dun Laoghaire Harbour would be a top-of-the-line government-funded National Monument Preservation Scheme, with the entire place given over exclusively to recreation afloat and ashore, and no commercial shipping of any significant size whatsoever allowed about the place, we knew it was pie in the sky.

"How on earth would they really pay for it?" he asked. "This place is huge, it costs a fortune to run and maintain. A cruise liner berth offers the best and most compact method of providing a worthwhile income stream. And as we in our sailing school – being a commercial operation – have to be rigorous in observing harbour regulations and keeping clear of the established in-harbour shipping lanes, we know that you can continue to sail small boats in large areas of the harbour without any undue sense of space restrictions".

Subsequently, I've been spending some time around Cork Harbour, where circumstances are so different from Dublin Bay that, unlikely as it may seem, you end up feeling sorry for the sailors of south Dublin. For while Cork is almost embarrassed by its riches in natural amenities for sailing, and it's all in a large and attractive harbour where marinas can be put down almost anywhere with no more than a floating breakwater to provide the necessary minimum of shelter, Dublin Bay by contrast is a hugely deprived area in terms of natural waterfront facilities for sailing, yet any attempts to provide man-made shoreline amenities for boats and sailors are dogged with local opposition every inch of the way.

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Around Cork Harbour, it only needs a floating breakwater and, hey presto, you've suddenly got a marina - as seen here at Monkstown. Photo: W M Nixon

Thoughts of this struggle, and how things change, emerged again for various reasons in Dun Laoghaire nine days ago, at the reception in Irish Lights HQ to launch the Great Lighthouses Tourism Initiative. Time was when our many fine lighthouses were places of mystery, and permission to visit took quite a bit of arranging if it could be managed at all. But my word, times have changed. In this electronic age, there are those who wonder if we need all our lighthouses. Yet Irish Lights is legally obliged to maintain them, and the built structures around them.

So Yvonne Shields, the CEO of Irish Lights, whom we'd describe as very switched on and extremely bright were we not talking of the top executive in a lights organisation, unveiled this sensible scheme whereby twelve of our greatest lighthouses are being transformed into stations on a tourist trail, while continuing as working lighthouses.

As the greatest and most monumental lighthouses on land tend to be on rugged headlands in remote areas, in the eyes of Brussels they're in peripheral areas deserving special aid. So there's €2 million of Eurodosh going into this project, which sees what had become increasing liabilities being transformed into tourist resources. And if we're going to be sniffy about that, let's face it: the kind of tourist who'll want to visit a remote lighthouse will not be the kind of tourist who would keep you well clear of Temple Bar.

So the old grey matter was churning briskly away on the business of seeing lighthouses in a new way as we headed home past the Coal Harbour, and there it was: The Embarrassment. For this was the evening at the end of the day when the majestic and rather handsome cruise liner Queen Mary 2 was anchored off Dun Laoghaire in a near gale from the southwest which had delayed the morning's arrangements to ferry passengers ashore in the ship's own tenders to the special landing pontoon installed by the Harbour Company in the inner harbour.

By this time, they were trying to return on board, waiting patiently in a queue which ran the length of the inner pier and more as the two ship's tenders bustled the mile and a half plus out to the ship, yet still more buses turned up to disgorge more passengers, such that for a while the long length of the queue seemed to stay persistently the same.

Perhaps it's because we Irish don't do queuing that I found the entire thing acutely embarrassing to behold. And it wasn't even as if it was raining, which it well could have been. Nevertheless it struck me as being a Third World sort of scenario. Yet obviously these people were keen to visit Dun Laoghaire – most of the thousands of passengers on board had elected to go ashore.

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This just won't do at all – images of Third World destinations came to mind on seeing the passengers from the Queen Mary 3 queuing in the Coal Harbour in Dun Laoghaire to get back out to their ship anchored in the bay. Photo: W M Nixon

So the epiphany came with the essential flashing great light. If we're going to have cruise liners calling at Dun Laoghaire, boomed this disembodied voice, then let's do it properly and provide them with a proper berth. Otherwise, don't have them about the place at all. But please, please – no more buzzing in and out in little tenders in this Irish climate, and no more queuing on a comfortless pier. It's an affront to our best traditions of hospitality.

This sudden firing-up with all the zeal of the recent convert (for until then, I'd wanted Dun Laoghaire to stay exactly as it is, and damn the expense) resulted in my being right into the dragon's den four days later. It was meant to be a short and businesslike meeting with Gerry Dunne, the CEO of Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, to discuss the Cruise Liner Berth Proposals. But so many ideas were flying around that we ran well over time.

Please be assured, though, that I did my best to represent the needs of the boat-owning and sailing community while accepting that since Stena Sealink withdrew from running a ferry service from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead, something very serious indeed needs to be done to pay for the maintenance of the harbour.

We have to remember that, among Ireland's main sailing centres, Cork and Kinsale are blessed with such good natural harbours that any marinas located in either harbour do not need fixed breakwaters. As for Bangor Marina on Belfast Lough, it may need a very substantial solid breakwater on its north side, but otherwise - thanks to being located in a bay - three of its four sides are naturally sheltered. But Dun Laoghaire is badly done by – it's so totally an artificial harbour in an exposed location that three of its four sides are protected by large man-made breakwaters, and while they are constructed in monumental style, continuous monitoring and maintenance is essential.

This is costly, but it would become even more so were standards allowed to slip for even a year or two. Even with the present high standards, there can be underlying wear and tear which in time needs major capital expenditure, and according to one recent report, hidden erosion on the most exposed section of the East Pier may eventually need up to €5 million for a proper remedial job.

As it is, the current basic running costs of the harbour are between €2 and €2.5 million a year. Were it kept as a purely recreational harbour and general public amenity, this figure could perhaps be slightly reduced. Yet the Dun Laoghaire recreational boating market still could not withstand paying the full amount out of its own resources and expected annual expenditure, so the shortfall would have to be made up by Government subvention.

But would the sailing and boating people of Dun Laoghaire really like to feel that they're beholden to taxpayers throughout Ireland for their continuing enjoyment of this wonderful amenity at affordable prices? There's something unpleasantly artificial about the idea of such an arrangement, whereas a harbour which is providing a modest but genuine profit is something which has a much healthier feel to it.

Surely if a way can be found of generating a worthwhile income stream without unduly distorting the traditional functioning of the harbour, then that idea should at the very least be actively explored, and recreational boating groups should be prepared to reach out towards compromises in the knowledge that, in turn, such arrangements would make the Harbour Company more accountable to all.

However, local representative Richard Boyd Barrett TD of the People Before Profit party, and Chair of Dun Laoghaire Save Our Seafront Group, sees it differently, and he has called for "a major campaign of people power against the planned cruise berth, and to protect the future of the harbour as a public amenity". His three main objections to a cruise berth plan are "(1) That the cost and financing of the project at €18 million means that the Harbour Company will have to borrow using its existing assets, where no proper business case has been produced. This puts the very future of the harbour at risk. (2) The entire plan has been hatched by an unelected board of the Harbour Company, Council Executives, and local business people who ran a sham of a public consultation over the two weeks of the Easter Holidays, and (3) The scale of the luxury liners at 300 metres long and 59 metres high will dwarf the harbour and reduce public access and public enjoyment of the most intact Victorian harbour in Britain and Ireland".

So with a Harbour Company which is government-owned, yet is charged with maximizing the economic benefit and exploiting the commercial opportunities provided by Dun Laoghaire Harbour, clearly there is something of a divide between the two sides. In fact, "light years apart" just about sums it up.

Nevertheless, politics being the art of the possible, it has to be possible to bring people together sufficiently to see that perhaps a proper sympathetically-designed cruise liner berth might indeed be the answer. After all, although it was built between 1817 and 1842 purely as a harbour of refuge for sailing ships with no thought of any interaction between sea and land, it very quickly became a ferry port for cross-channel steamships. At the height of this activity, with frequent roll-on roll-off ferries and their unpleasant shoreside traffic dominating the waterfront, Dun Laoghaire had lost much of its charm.

For the life of me I can't see that the much more limited shoreside traffic generated by the visits of cruise liners in the summer months can be seen as being anything like as obnoxious as the previous waves of road and rail traffic for the ferries, which was readily tolerated, and helped to keep the place going for 180 years.

And in any case, with the end of the ferry services, Dun Laoghaire definitely lacks purpose. In the Irish climate, it is very difficult to maintain a sense of vitality around a harbour which is purely devoted to personal recreation, whether afloat and ashore. It could be argued that, regardless of the economic benefits, it would be good for the mental spirit and communal well-being of Dun Laoghaire to be a cruise liner port of call, as a cruise liner strikes a neat balance between work and play. Like it or not, all work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but all play and no work makes him mad.

But even if we accept that the shoreside traffic will be much less than it was with the regular ferries even if there is a cruise liner in port every other day, that is only part of the equation. How does the town itself shape up as a desirable cruise liner destination?

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The Harbour Lodge is symbolic of today's Dun Laoghaire, a classical building from an earlier age, but now enclosed by modernity. Photo: W M Nixon

When we get down to the nitty gritty like this, Gerry Dunne is in his element. He's an affable guy, and good company, but I wouldn't like to get into a row with him, as there's steel underneath it all. So in the sedate setting of Harbour Lodge – which he cheerfully admits his opponents and friends have nick-named "Mussolini's Palace" – he's just the man to fight off the brickbats and work his way towards several objectives. But although he actually lives in Dun Laoghaire within walking distance of his office, he's not really into boat and water sports, yet that's no drawback, as personal preferences definitely don't come into it at all as he plans the way ahead.

He makes no bones about admitting that his attitude is strongly commercial. Before taking over the reins at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, he was Commercial Director at RTE, a job description which boggles the mind. Before that, he honed his skills in the UK, working for several large Irish food companies. If that gives you a vision of ditzy little artisan cheeses selling in agreeable country shops, then perish the thought – the big Irish food industries provide as tough a business environment as you could imagine.

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The many moods of Gerry Dunne.Toughened by a varied and demanding career in business and marketing, he has brought a fresh mind to the problems of making Dun Laoghaire harbour economically viable. Photos: W M Nixon

He joined the Harbour Company in 2009, when talk of Stena's withdrawal was already in the wind. So he got Dun Laoghaire moving towards the cruise liner market in a small way, with the miniature 53-passenger Quest in 2011. Finding Quest an in-harbour berth was no problem, and she provided invaluable information on what Dun Laoghaire can provide as a USP for discerning cruise liner passengers. For Quest's rather specialist group, it was the easy access to the Wicklow Hills and particularly Mount Ussher Gardens, and they definitely didn't want to have to travel through Dublin City to get there.

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The mini liner Quest – seen here in the Arctic - began the programme of attracting cruise ships to Dun Laoghaire in 2011

So far so good, but Gerry Dunne really struck gold when he started going to the cruise liner fairs in America and Europe. Gradually he built up a useful network, and again he struck gold when he got a report on the potential attractions of Dun Laoghaire from the Vice President (Itineraries) of one of the biggest American cruise liner conglomerates. Asked to sum up in one word the attraction of the Dun Laoghaire for visitors coming in from sea, her answer was: "Serenity".

We've become accustomed to Venice being talked of as The Most Serene Republic - The Serenissima. But it makes you sit up and take notice to hear of Dun Laoghaire being so described by a tough American businesswoman. Yet that's the impression the waterfront area, with its combination of the old yacht clubs, the station, the Town Hall and the Royal Marine Hotel, apparently makes on seaborn visitors from cruise liners, even if their liners are at present anchored outside the harbour and they have to be ferried in to land by ship's tenders. It seems they can blank out the less attractive buildings, and are left with the abiding impression of relaxed elegance with an easygoing way of life.

This takes a bit of getting used to, as it's so much at variance with the perception in Ireland of Dun Laoghaire as a place where they'd argue over anything and everything all the time, while just up the street there's the real problem of the dreary array of boarded-up shops. But like it or lump it, here it is folks – the reality is the yacht clubs and other other historically significant and stylish buildings of the Dun Laoghaire waterfront area – including the pleasantly under-stated Victorian residential terraces - are the town's greatest tourist asset.

Quite what some of the more senior members of the yacht clubs will make of that we can only guess, but the word is that the clubs have indicated that they'll be prepared to welcome some cruiser liner guests to their premises at pre-arranged times. So perhaps we should see the cruise liners as no more than extra-super super yachts......And there's no doubt that many rugged sailing folk from Dun Laoghaire are themselves only too happy to tootle off on a cruise liner when the peak of the sailing season is over.

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The artist's impression was just that – an artist's impression. If the new berth goes ahead, cruise liners will actually have their sterns towards the town.

But what is the reality if the new berth is agreed? Well, you can forget about your artist's impressions showing a liner facing the town. Space will be restricted, so the liners will come in stern first, thereby enabling them to make an elegant departure for the benefit of crowds down the end of the piers, which could become a popular occurrence.

The new liner pier will be as short as possible, though it will have an underpass for small craft, while the bows of the ships themselves will be held in place by dolphins, as was the HSS ferry. If you think that getting into this berth will involve impossibly ticklish manoeuvring, consider this recent photo of the three Cunard Queens up close and friendly in Southampton, and note that there's no lack of small craft nipping about among them.

dl10.jpgThe three Cunarders can manoeuvre unaided at close quarters even with several small craft nipping about their heels, as seen here in Southampton

One of the other drawbacks about the current setup, with the ships anchoring off and people disembarking in the Coal Harbour, is that there's very little space for buses to move about, but the present waterfront marshalling yard left behind by the exit of Sealink will greatly relieve that problem if the new berth is built. At the moment, it is planned that passengers will walk the short length of the pier to reach their buses, but my own feeling is that the pier should be made a bit wider with a turning circle in order that passengers may board their buses almost directly from the ship, for we're not talking long distance athletes here.

That said, those who are fitter can come and go as they please, with the town within easy reach, whereas being anchored off can cause cabin fever. In other words, if Dun Laoghaire is going to have a cruise liner berth, let it be done properly – half measures involving long walks to buses just won't do, but equally for those who do walk, the town must feel accessible and welcoming.

As to the amount of space the ship will take up in the harbour, that will vary from ship to ship, but some are indeed enormous. And their wind-deflecting presence will certainly add an extra interest to in-harbour dinghy racing. As for the interest of the in-harbour racing for the visitors on the ship, that in turn will all be part of Dun Laoghaire's colourful charm, for which their ship will provide a grandstand view.

In line with that, we should remember that the leading in-harbour class, the historic Water Wags, have only just returned from showing themselves off at Morbihan Sailing week in France. Thus they'll scarcely be unduly bothered about providing a source of fascination for passengers on cruise liners, some of whom will probably be former dinghy racers themselves.

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The Water Wags find it easy to sail freely within Dun Laoghaire Marina on their way out to race in the main harbour, so their only problem with a cruise liner berthed in mid-harbour will be the effect it has on wind flow. Photo: W M Nixon

But what the in-harbour dinghy racers are already becoming happily accustomed to is the newly-emptied eastern half of the harbour, with space now provided where boats used to moor. And this area will not be at risk from maneuvering cruise liners – there's not the depth for them. Finally, as to the height or otherwise of the ships in relation to other structures in Dun Laoghaire, I think we've been righteously indignant about this on a mistaken premise – since the new library was pushed into place, all bets about skyline heights and an elegant relationship with other waterfront buildings are clearly off.

So if the sailing and boating community can be more accepting of the cruise liners which will ultimately provide a real source of income to maintain the harbour which makes their activities possible, what can they expect in return?

They're in a strong negotiating position. After all, the Harbour Company's research has shown it is the comfortable presence of the yacht clubs which underpins this vision of serenity which is Dun Laoghaire's most appealing attraction for the kind of people who enjoy the cruise liner experience. So it's very much in the Harbour Company's interest to keep the clubs in good health.

By today's standards, the Royal Irish YC is thriving, thanks in no small part to its location within the marina against whose creation, ironically, the club fought tooth and nail. But the other three clubs – the Royal St George, the National, and the Dun Laoghaire MYC – are blighted by the limited and relatively unsheltered pontoon berthing at their clubhouses.

It may well be – and I'm only guessing – that the Marina Company's agreement with the Harbour Company includes a clause that these three clubs are not allowed to have their own adjacent marinas. But if such a clause exists, then it should be deleted for the greater good of the harbour and the vitality of the waterfront in general, and the three clubs should be facilitated in providing 150-boat marinas – with proper breakwaters for the George and National - in front of each clubhouse.

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Dun Laoghaire from the southeast. If the new cruise liner berth is installed at mid-harbour, a longterm plan could be the installation of breakwaters in front of the Royal St George YC and the National YC in the foreground to shelter two new 150-boat marinas, as the location of the Royal Irish YC within the main marina gives it an unfair advantage in providing facilities for its members.

As to how Dun Laoghaire town can benefit, that's another matter altogether. The much stronger income and improved employment going through the Harbour Company will undoubtedly be a tangible good, though how seasonal it will be – with liners expected only between April and October – remains to be seen.

But personal expenditure by cruise liner passengers in the town is an imponderable. In fact, some cruise liners in the popular sunshine destinations are notorious for disembarking guests who feel that they made their total investment with the purchase of the ticket back home, so they don't plan to spend any more.

The historic little Venetian city-port of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic – which doesn't have a proper liner port – recently banned cruise liners from coming anywhere near the place, as their thousands of passengers made the narrow streets very uncomfortably crammed at peak times, yet the average expenditure ashore in Dubrovnik by each cruise liner passenger was precisely €6. There's food for thought. But we will of course get a better class of cruise liner passenger in Dun Laoghaire...

Published in W M Nixon
Page 2 of 7

The Rolex Fastnet Race - This biennial offshore pilgrimage attracts crews from all walks of life:- from aspiring sailors to professional crews; all ages and all professions. Some are racing for charity, others for a personal challenge. For the world's top professional sailors, it is a 'must-do' race. For some, it will be their first-ever race, and for others, something they have competed in for over 50 years! The race attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts, from beautiful classic yachts to some of the fastest racing machines on the planet – and everything in between.  The testing course passes eight famous landmarks along the route: The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, the Lizard, Land’s End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater (now Cherbourg for 2021 and 2023). After the start in Cowes, the fleet heads westward down The Solent, before exiting into the English Channel at Hurst Castle. The finish is in Plymouth, Devon via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland

  • The leg across the Celtic Sea to (and from) the Fastnet Rock is known to be unpredictable and challenging. The competitors are exposed to fast-moving Atlantic weather systems and the fleet often encounter tough conditions
  • Flawless decision-making, determination and total commitment are the essential requirements. Crews have to manage and anticipate the changing tidal and meteorological conditions imposed by the complex course
  • The symbol of the race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point in the challenging race
  • Once sailors reach the Fastnet Rock, they are well over halfway to the finish in Plymouth. The lighthouse first shone its light on New Year’s Day in 1854
  • Fastnet Rock originally had six keepers (now unmanned), with four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Each man did four weeks on, two weeks off

At A Glance – Fastnet Race

  • The world's largest offshore yacht race
  • The biennial race is 605 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Plymouth
  • A fleet of over 400 yachts regularly will take part
  • The international fleet is made up of over 26 countries
  • Multihull course record: 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (2011, Banque Populaire V)
  • Monohull course record: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi)
  • Largest IRC Rated boat is the 100ft (30.48m) Scallywag 100 (HKG)
  • Some of the Smallest boats in the fleet are 30 footers
  • Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001
  • The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result

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