Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Funding race to reinstate ferry

The Swansea Cork Ferry
The Swansea Cork Ferry has not sailed since the boat was sold in late 2006

An Irish-based consortium has formed a co-operative which hopes to reinstate the Swansea to Cork ferry by raising 2.7m in a week.

Led by West Cork Tourism, it said with the money in place the ferry, grounded in 2007, could resume in April.

A ship costing in the region of 9m has been identified and the group said bank loans and other funding was available, including cash for working capital.

A series of meetings is planned in the West Cork region over the coming days.

Businesses in the area estimate they are losing around 45m a year in tourism.

While south Wales has not been hit so badly, there is also support for the return of the ferry there.

"3 million might sound like a staggering amount of money, but it is not only achievable - it is imperative
Conor Buckley

Conor Buckley, chairman of West Cork Tourism, said the co-operative was formed when a suitable ship became available at a realistic price.

He said the consortium was looking for 300 people or businesses to pledge 9,000 each.

However, the consortium needs to move quickly as the boat goes up for auction at the end of the month.

Mr Buckley added: "It is vital that we secure a ferry service this year.

"If we can raise 3m [2.7m] from the industry over the next seven days we will have the potential to unleash a 250m [224m] dividend over the next five years.

"The Swansea Cork service was a profitable business from 1987 to 2006, and we believe that there will be an excellent return on a 3 million investment."

The co-operative said if it could come up 2.7m, an additional 5.4m would come from a loan issued by a bank with a vested interest in the boat.

Additional money was available from business interests in the shipping and freight industry, Cork County Council and other agencies.

"Staggering amount"

"We need to secure 300 pledges within the next seven days.

"3m might sound like a staggering amount of money, but it is not only achievable - it is imperative if we are to re-establish West Cork as a tourism stronghold."

A campaign was launched last year to reinstate the ferry, which carried about 120,000 passengers annually.

Founder John Hosford said: "We think it's of social and economic benefit to both the south west of Ireland and to south Wales.

"The return of the Swansea to Cork Ferry would see money flowing into the economies on both sides."

The service was launched in 1987 and ran for 19 years before the original operator sold the boat in late 2006.

It blamed the collapse of a 22m deal to buy a replacement for the route closing.

Swansea Council said despite the loss of the ferry, tourism to the city increased by 4% in 2007 with 278m being spent that year.

However, it said it would be supportive of viable proposals to restore the ferry.

Print Sponsor

Swansea-Cork ferry is suspended
09 Jan 07 |  South West Wales
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