Ferry aims to become Ireland's/Wales'/Britain's largest Billboard.
Swansea-to-Cork owners offer naming rights and sponsorship to variety of companies
West Cork Tourism Co-Operative Society Limited, owners of the Swansea-to-Cork service (Fastnet Line), is seeking expressions of interest from companies wishing to name and sponsor the ferry.
As part of a wider process of drawing up a financial plan to exit examinership, the Co-Op is developing some creative commercial opportunities for companies, state and semi-state bodies or individuals to support the future of the service on both sides of the Irish Sea
At 270 ft by 50 ft, the vessel would be transformed into the largest mobile billboard in Ireland/Wales/the UK for two years.
The sponsor will be able to cover the entire facade of the MV Julia, which has been nicknamed ‘The People’s Ferry’, with their logo and branding.
Noel Murphy, Chairman of the West Cork Tourism Co-Operative, said:
“By providing the opportunity for investors to secure the naming rights of the MV Julia, we are offering an innovative and mutually beneficial avenue by which to raise funds for the ferry."
The naming and branding of the only ferry service between South West Wales and Southern Ireland is a great way for investors to help ensure the survival of the service, while also achieving a tangible return on their investment.
We are hoping that our ship can sail with the name and colours of an iconic Irish/Welsh brand. The new Julia could personify Irish creativity or Welsh fighting spirit.
There is an urgent need for the Co-Op to secure further funding in order to ensure we exit the examinership process in early 2012.
Through a tremendous grass-roots campaign, we have raised €677,000 as of today. This has been raised by individual donors, passengers, shareholders, investors and local businesses.
We still have to raise slightly under €1 million and the revenue generated through sponsorship and naming rights will help greatly in our effort.”
High Court Hears One Viable Investor Remaining To Save Cork Swansea Ferry And 60 JobsPRESS RELEASE
20 December 2011
At a hearing in the High Court today (20 December), it was confirmed that there is only one investment proposal available to save the Cork Swansea ferry – currently in examinership.
The examinership process will continue with the West Cork Tourism Co-Op emerging as the only viable entity capable of returning the ferry to a profitable business model.
The West Cork Tourism Co-Operative Society has today outlined the urgent funding required to secure the future of the service which will allow them to present a financial proposal to the Examiner in early January.
To date €673,000 (as of today) has been raised by individual donors, customers, shareholders and local businesses, leaving just under €1 million to be raised.
Noel Murphy, Chairman of the Co-Op said, “The response we have received in such a short period of time has been overwhelming.
The West Cork Tourism Cooperative has agreed to present an investment proposal to the examiner early in 2012.
This business plan would be supported by €1.65 million which would be made available to Fastnet Line.
The Ferry provides the only direct passenger and freight link between the South West Irish region and the U.K. In so doing, it is a key generator of business and tourism and related revenues for both regions.
During its time in operation the ferry service was responsible for an additional €40 million per annum to the Munster Region. This kind of revenue to local businesses cannot be lost, especially in these stringent economic times
The ferry is also a vital piece of Irish transport infrastructure and brings tens of thousands of tourists into Southern Ireland - its collapse could hit the local economy to the tune of tens of millions in lost revenues”, said Noel Murphy.
At the event the Co-op will outline a number of management decisions designed to ensure the long-term viability of the service. These include altering the business model to a six-month sailing service and the establishment of more efficient marketing unit.
About the Ferry
- The Fastnet Line companies are owned by the West Cork Tourism Co-Operative Society Limited which was formed in April 2009 to fund and operate the ferry as a community-based cooperative of over 450 investors and enterprises in both Wales and Ireland.
- Since March 2010 153,000 passengers have used the Fastnet Line
- A fundraising drive is underway in Ireland and Wales. The West Cork Tourism Cooperative, which currently owns Fastnet Line has agreed to present an investment proposal to the examiner in early 2012 in order to ensure the survival of the unique Cruise Ferry service between Ireland and Wales.
- In total €1.65 million is needed and to date (20 December 2011) €661,500 has been raised by individual donors, passengers, shareholders, investors and local businesses, leaving less than €1 million to be found, and highlighting the level of local commitment and goodwill towards this service
Fastnet Line nominated Best Overall Ferry Operator
Fastnet Line has been named by the British Travel Awards as one of the shortlisted contenders for Best Overall Ferry Operator.
The Fastnet Line service offers comfortable overnight sailings between Cork and Swansea. Dine in style, eat informally or grab a snack with a choice of three restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. Plenty to do for all the family with a cinema, children's play zone, a casino and a visitor information centre. We have everything you need for a comfortable relaxing start to your holiday as well as the most direct route to the gems of Ireland's South West Coast and South Wales.
Spokesperson for Fastnet Line Joy Gillen said, “We are honoured to have been nominated for Best Overall Ferry Operator by the British Travel Awards. The West Cork Co-Op and team at Fastnet Line are determined to promote tourism in Wales and Ireland, whilst also providing an excellent cruise service to all our passengers.”
BTA’s chief executive Lorraine Barnes Burton said: “The British Travel Awards are widely considered to be the “Oscars” of the travel industry! It’s the largest awards programme in the UK created to reward travel companies and the winning accolade is the benchmark for excellence when it comes to finding out who really is the best in the business of travel for the UK consumer.”
Companies were nominated by travel industry professionals and a selection of the previous year’s consumer voters, and the shortlisted companies now go to the consumer voting stage. In 2010 over 120,000 votes were cast with the results scrutinized and audited by Deloitte LLP. The winners of the 2011 British Travel Awards will be announced at a glittering ceremony on 2 November at the Battersea Evolution in Battersea Park, London.
Lord Mayor Opens Ship's new Tourist Office
“The Swansea-Cork Cruise Ferry celebrated its 100,000 commercial passenger on June 25th 2011, 15 months after its maiden voyage of March 11th 2010. While down on its original forecasted target, the figure does not take account the 60 sailing’s cancelled in January to March 2011 to accommodate essential maintenance.
All ferry operators on the Irish Sea are currently offering “deals” in line with customer’s expectations and to encourage volume full occupancy sailings during the peak summer season.
Fastnet Line is delighted to announce our many summer deals including Short Breaks & Mini Cruises, a policy that we intend to continue into the autumn and winter seasons. The Swansea-Cork Cruise Ferry 2011 / 12 annual schedules will be released on August 8th. Our new schedule will take account the recent addition of Swansea FC to the Premiership to accommodate travelling Irish Supporters.
Today, July 5th 2011 the ships new Tourist Office, which will be manned full time for the Summer Months by Irish and Welsh members of the West Cork Co – Op, will be officially opened by the new Cork County Mayor Tim Lombard (pictures to follow). This facility will provide information and an advanced booking system for accommodation, leisure, and hospitality facilities in both Ireland and Wales.”
From the Irish Times 18/06/2011
This article on Fastnet Line appeared in the Irish Times on the 18th June 2011 written by Brian O'Connell
Locals were so keen to revive Cork’s ferry link with Swansea that they raised €3 million to help buy a ship, and the route reopened last year. But, despite a good first 12 months, the service faces mounting challenges
OVER A YEAR ON, and the people behind what could be termed the closest thing to a socialist ferry this side of Havana are preparing for choppy financial waters.
When Swansea Cork Ferries stopped running its service, in 2006, it looked as if the passenger-ferry connection between southwest Ireland and south Wales had been lost to harsh commercial realities.
Yet locals in particular didn’t share that assessment, and a co-operative formed in an effort to re-establish the link. Many people, from university lecturers to shopkeepers, put their hands in their pockets, with some 300 people contributing about €10,000 each; the close to €3 million they raised helped to buy and fit out a ship to sail the route again.
The vessel was a German ferry, built in 1982, that had been working on cruise routes from Norway. Julia , as the ship was renamed, was bought for €7.8 million, and after its overhaul and some upgrading the “people’s ferry”, as it is now known, looked good for another decade at least. Now, however, Fastnet Line, the company that operates the ship, is battling rising costs and a seemingly unending Europe-wide recession.
The company says that, after some teething problems following the route’s reopening, in March last year, it met its target of carrying 78,000 passengers in its first 12 months, and in the coming weeks it expects Julia to carry its 100,000th passenger. For the route to remain profitable, the company needs to carry about 90,000 passengers a year. The company has introduced shorter and more flexible return breaks, cut fares by up to 40 per cent and fitted more luxury cabins, and it says its freight business is steady and growing.
When you ask people who are connected with the ferry, most say this year will be the real test of the commercial viability of the route. Although the booking office in Ringaskiddy has been taking more calls in recent weeks, passengers aren’t buying their tickets as far in advance as they used to, which makes it hard for Fastnet to judge how the summer season will turn out. Competition is intense; Stena Line and Irish Ferries are offering free places on their crossings for under-16s.
“This year will be a challenge for everyone in the travel industry, not least us,” says Michael Wood, Fastnet Line’s general manager. “There are a number of reasons for that. We face challenges with increased fuels costs, and it will be a late-booking year. People will still go on holiday but they are now booking later. I think, though, we seem to be holding our own in where we are compared to the market.”
ABOARD JULIA IN RINGASKIDDY , staff are mopping floors, stripping down machinery and changing bed linen in berths, getting the ship ready for one of its six night-time sailings between Cork and Swansea each week.
In the staff quarters, lunch is being served to crew in communal dining areas. At a separate table, Capt John Grace and chief engineer Robert Ives reflect on the previous 12 months. They are experienced seamen, with more than 40 years in the business between them. They swap notes on rough seas, engine capabilities and how much the industry has changed since they began their lives at sea.
Ives talks about how well the co-operative did in buying the ship, which he says was good business even though the vessel is almost 30 years old.
“I think they got an absolute bargain. A lot of the machinery has been improved since it was bought, but you must remember this ship was ahead of its time. The engines are extremely good, easy to work and not too expensive to keep going. A shipyard that knew what they were doing built it. I’ve seen some cheap builds not as well thought out, and to do simple jobs on them is very difficult. With the right staff, there is no reason why this can’t continue for a good long time. We are getting people coming back to us who like working here. All we need now is to get more guests on the ship.”
Grace says the ship’s passengers tend to be elderly holidaymakers, and one of the challenges for the company is to develop a broader appeal. It’s as much to do with changing public perception as with adapting its business model.
“When I first started out, in 1987, some of the ships were glorified cattle boats,” Grace says. “People were very surprised when the ash cloud hit last year and they had to travel by ferry. Many may not have done so for years and got a real culture shock. Now we have cinemas, bars, Wi-Fi and luxury cabins if you want them, whereas before they had a preconception you were herded on board and left to your own devices.”
The fortunes ofSwansea’s football team could turn out to be a saving grace for the route. In August Swansea City will become the first team outside England to play in the Premier League, having won promotion in a play-off against Reading. With their ground 15 minutes from the terminal, Fastnet Line is hoping for a bounce in numbers as a result. “During the winter time we will change the schedule to leave here on a Friday night so that people can go to the match, do a bit of shopping and leave for Cork the next day. Hopefully it can be a positive thing for us,” Grace says.
The travel industry can be a fickle world, and just because a route was well established in the past doesn’t mean it will thrive again. Also, the gap in service between 2006 and 2010 made tourists look elsewhere for their journeys to and from Ireland. The challenge for the company is to attract them back in large enough numbers to ensure the people’s ferry remains popular.
“The service was out of action for four years,” says John Hosford, one of the leaders of the campaign to bring back the ferry. “People went to alternative ports and operators, and now all that has to be gleaned back. So it’s like we are starting a new service in a sense. Except this time the local community are interested and engaged in it like never before.”
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