Deadline looms for SeaFrance vessel bids
Wed, 18 Apr 2012
Eurotunnel and DFDS eye ferry buys, but P&O says no
The deadline for sealed bids to acquire the vessels of collapsed cross-Channel ferry operator SeaFrance, whose assets are now in the hands of the liquidator, has been set for 4 May.
The ships in question are the Rodin (pictured), Berlioz and freighter Nord Pas de Calais, which have an estimated combined value of up to €150 million.
A source close to the sale process told IFW a bankruptcy judge is scheduled to deliver his verdict by the middle of next month.
In the event of a bid being accepted, the transfer of vessels to the new owner would very likely be completed by the beginning of June, the source added.
Late last month, he revealed that Eurotunnel, P&O and DFDS were due to make further inspections of the vessels.
“We are as determined as ever to submit an offer, and plan to do so in the second half of April,” a Eurotunnel spokesperson told IFW yesterday.
DFDS has yet to decide whether to submit a bid. “There are not too many vessels specifically adapted to the Dover-Calais crossing on the market and we are keeping our options open for ther moment,” a spokesman said.
DFDS and French partner LD Lines will deploy a second vessel on their Dover-Calais route later this month.
P&O Ferries, however, will not be pursuing its interest, a spokesman confirmed.
THE date of this year's Harbour Festival has been announced.
Bristol's Harbourside and Queen Square will take centre stage, offering visitors a mix of live performance by artists, musicians, dancers and circus acts, plus markets and stalls, on the weekend of July 20 to 22.
On the water, hundreds of sailing vessels, from historic ships and boats to pleasure yachts and harbour ferries are expected to provide a colourful backdrop to Bristol's annual celebration of its maritime heritage.
The 2012 Bristol Harbour Festival – the city's 41st – has been funded by Bristol City Council working in partnership with Bristol-based Richmond Event Management.
It is expected to attract more than 200,000 visitors and organisers are inviting business to get involved.
Councillor Simon Cook, Bristol's deputy leader and executive member with responsibility for culture, said: "For thousands of local people across the city and for thousands more who come to visit, the Bristol Harbour Festival is the highlight of the city's cultural calendar. Thanks to the creative talent of local musicians and performers, the festival boasts an enviable reputation for first-class entertainment and family fun."
Entry to the festival is free and many of the festival events and activities are also free. Some shows and performances will incur a charge.
For more information and regular updates visit http://www.bristolharbour festival.co.uk.
For more information about business or sponsorship opportunities visit http://www.rem-events.com.
The Isle of Man government is in talks with wind farm developers in an attempt to maintain ferry routes to the UK.
Energy company Centrica is planning a development about 12 miles off the Manx coast, outside Manx territorial waters.
It is thought the move could force changes which would result in longer sailing times and higher prices.
A government spokesman said infrastructure officials were "strongly arguing" for the current ferry routes to be maintained.
Routes between Douglas and Heysham and Liverpool are used by more than half a million passengers a year and provide freight services to and from the island.
Centrica was awarded wind farm development rights for the Irish Sea zone in January 2010.
It met shipping companies earlier this year and held a series of public consultations in February.
A TOURISM company is fast becoming one of the largest in South Devon after taking over a 65-year-old ferry business.
The Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company bought the Brixham to Torquay service following three months of negotiations.
The company which runs steam train, river boat and bus services between Paignton and Dartmouth, to Salcombe and to Teignmouth, rented the Western Lady Ferries last year.
General manager Andrew Pooley said the takeover was a 'natural progression' for the company and a 'very amicable takeover'.
He said: "Last year, we ran £5 return trips from Brixham to Dartmouth on the ferries and people said we were mad but we doubled the number of people and it turned out to be a very profitable trip.
"We don't aspire to be the easyJet or Ryanair of the Bay but we are trying to drive the cost of transport down in South Devon so people can see the area as attractive to come down to when they plan they holidays."
As part of the takeover, understood to represent a 'huge investment', the ferry service will remain under the Western Lady banner but will undergo a complete make-over, with a new brand enhancing the holiday fun/age of steam look that the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company already has.
Mr Pooley said: "We'll be revamping the boats and introducing a new timetable in the Bay this year.
"Buying the company proves our commitment in the English Riviera, along with providing and maintaining vital employment.
"I think it will boost trade in Brixham and the rest of the Bay."
Mr Pooley said this year visitors would be able to enjoy an unlimited travel pass on its steam train, buses, and boats thanks to a special five-day £30 jubilee pass.
Sandie Armstrong, manager of the Western Lady Ferry company, said: "We're delighted with the takeover. We will continue to do what we've been doing best for the past 65 years.
"The Western Lady was a small family company which was very popular in its hey days.
"We are now part of a much bigger company and we hope to revive our business. It's a great move for the Western Lady Ferry."
Mrs Armstrong said the two boats had started operating again and would continue to offer the Brixham to Torquay crossing every day until the end of October.
Mr Pooley said the takeover was part of the company's expansion plans which have included a £1million revamp of Paignton steam train station as well as the construction of a new holt at Greenway.
To celebrate the move, anyone who buys a steam train ticket between now and the end of May, will get a free trip on the Western Lady Ferry to Brixham or Torquay.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has published its report on a collision between a Thames Clippers catamaran and a rigid inflatable boat on the Thames near Blackfriars Bridge last summer.
The MAIB report describes the dramatic episode which took place on the River Thames nearBlackfriars Bridge on 1 June 2011 which left the two co-owners of the Morfil rigid inflatable boat in the water after their craft had come into contact with the Sun Clipper catamaran operated by the Thames Clippers company.
Investigators found that the coxswain of Morfil was under the influence of alcohol and the boat was travelling at a "significantly greater" speed than the 12 knot limit set by the Port of London Authority.
The collision, which happened at 11.21pm, occurred after the co-owners of Morfil had visited a pub at St Katharine's Dock before heading back to the boat's mooring at Cadogan Pier.
The report describes how passengers on the Sun Clipper threw lifebuoys to try to rescue the two Morfil crew members. The men, who were not wearing lifejackets, were eventually pulled from the water by RNLI lifeboat crews.
Morfil continued to spin around once its crew had fallen into the river, ricocheting off the stone buttresses of Blackfriars Bridge before eventually coming to rest on the beach on the north side of the bridge.
The MAIB notes that at the time of the accident, Morfil's coxswain is likely to have had at least six units of alcohol in his body, more than double the alcohol limit for motorists and professional mariners.
"It is therefore likely that his decision making and actions were impaired by alcohol," says the MAIB.
The report also notes that "there have been at least 45 fatalities resulting from accidents to pleasure vessels over the last 6 years in which alcohol has been a contributory factor.
"It was extremely fortunate that a further two fatalities did not result from this collision.
"The introduction of an alcohol limit for persons in charge of pleasure vessels was first recommended in the Hayes Report almost 20 years ago.
"Although the provision for such a limit was made in the Railways and Transport Safety Act, 2003, the pertinent subsections of the act have yet to be commenced. The use of byelaws by harbour authorities to deter alcohol consumption on pleasure vessels is largely ineffective.
"A recommendation has been made to the Department for Transport aimed at expediting the enactment of a national alcohol limit to persons in charge of pleasure vessels.
"A recommendation has also been made to the Port of London Authority designed to further enhance the safety of all water users on the River Thames."
The Port of London Authority has welcomed the investigation's findings.
"This is a very good and thorough report into a serious accident which could easily have resulted in fatalities," said a PLA spokesman.
"The report highlights the dangers of speeding vessels in confined and congested waterways; and of alcohol consumption by those in charge of boats, which should be regarded no differently to drink-driving on the roads.
"In this very busy year for London this report goes to the heart of why safety is crucial for all river users at all times.
"We welcome all the MAIB key recommendations and in particular continue to work with the Department for Transport to strengthen the PLA's safety regulations and enforcement."
• The PLA prosecuted Morfil's coxswain, who pleaded guilty to navigating in a manner liable to injure or endanger persons and other vessels before City of London Magistrates and was fined £2,500, with £3366 costs plus a victim surcharge of £15.
Finland’s STX Rauma Shipyard recently held the keel-laying of the double-ended ferry for Suomen Lauttaliikenne Oy (Finferries). The environmentally friendly next-generation ferry will be delivered to Finferries at the end of this year for service on the Korpo – Houtskär route beginning in 2013.
A traditional keel-laying ceremony was witnessed by representatives of Suomen Lauttaliikenne (Finferries), STX Finland and the classification society Bureau Veritas.
Particular attention has been given to the efficiency and safety of the ferry by, for example, minimizing the docking time with help of wide bow and stern ramps. The ferry, capable of running in both directions, is 65 meters long and 12.8 meters wide and has the capacity to carry some 250 passengers, three tandem trailers and 39 cars. The ship features a modern passenger seating saloon with cafeteria.
The shipyard will also building three floating link spans that will be used to drive cars onto the ferry.
“This project is significant for STX Rauma Shipyard as the impact for the employment in the current under-load situation is important. The project has advanced as planned. The ferry which represents the cutting-edge technology in its field will be launched in June and delivered to the customer at the end of 2012," says Toivo Ilvonen, Director of STX Rauma Shipyard.
“It has been a pleasure to note that a Finnish partner was an excellent choice. We believe that both crew and passengers will appreciate the enhanced qualities of the new vessel,” says Mats Rosin, Managing Director of Finferries / Suomen Lauttaliikenne Oy.
April 22, 2012
BRUSSELS (Dow Jones)--The European Commission, the European Union's executive body, will by the end of the year propose new rules to increase the safety of ferries and other boats, but said it is still premature to know if cruise ships will also need to be covered, Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said Tuesday.
The Commission will propose to improve the safety of so-called roll-on roll-off ferries and to broaden existing rules on steel passenger ships to those made of other materials, sailing and historical ships, it said in a statement.
However, it was still unclear whether the new rules will also cover cruise ships.
"For cruise ships, it is premature to speculate" on what will be needed, Kallas said during a press conference. "The safety record for these ships is very good," he said, adding that the issue of how big these ships can be allowed to be has to be examined. "Is there any limit of the size of these ships?" he said.
The second ferry to be brought into use on the Dover-Calais route by DFDS Seaways and LD Lines has started operating today.
The ship, named Deal Seaways, brings the total number of daily sailings by the companies from Dover to Calais to 10. Tickets cost £29 each way for a car and up to four passengers.
Deal Seaways has been chartered from Brittany Ferries, and was previously known as the Barfleur.
Chris Newey, passenger director for the English Channel at DFDS Seaways, said: “We have been really pleased with the uptake of the new route between Dover-Calais, and are delighted to be able to respond to demand with the launch of the second vessel, therefore doubling the number of crossings.
“We’re confident our customers will benefit from the flexibility of sailing times, as well as still having the option to travel to Dunkirk.”
Friday, April 27 2012
CAN you believe it could cost just £99 to entertain the whole family for a year at some of Merseyside’s top tourist attractions?
Well, that was certainly the case until a few days ago when I discovered that the bargain annual pass issued by Mersey Ferries is now sleeping with the fishes.
Upon my attempt to renew my yearly ticket to the Big Mersey Adventure - unlimited access to ferry cruises, Spaceport, the U-boat Story and Beatles Story, - an assistant told me it wasn’t possible because the firm behind the swipe card software had gone into liquidation.
I also noticed that the new combined tickets, now exclude the Beatles Story. Should you wish to take this in too, it will add a whopping £38 to your family day trip - taking the total before refreshments to £78. A Ticket to Ride too far!'
Bosses at Merseytravel, owners of the attractions, scoffed at the idea, claiming the annual pass had been “suspended”, pending a pricing review. It begged the question: why would you suspend something before the review had taken place?
Until I realised that Merseytravel is now championing a new, all singing smart card called Walrus which is being introduced on a staggered basis.
Right now, it is the time for work commuters who use the ferry to switch over to this card. Can it be coincidence that the annual pass card has suddenly been withdrawn?
There has been no announcement on the ferries website, no media notices issued, just a quiet vanishing act. Until now.
I contacted Merseytravel chairman Mark Dowd’s office. No reply. I have missed a trick though. When I tried to renew my pass at Seacombe ferry terminal on Sunday, Cllr Dowd was right outside watching a parade of veterans. Maybe I should have taken the opportunity to buttonhole the great man.
Matthew And Kate
Turnbull Looking GlumMind you, I knew it wouldn’t last. If they can persuade day-tripping families to part with £40 (the standard price for a trip on the ferries with attractions thrown in), why give it away at a bargain bucket rate to local families?
It makes no sense in other ways though: during the quiet winter months at least locals could keep the coffee bars and gift shops ticking over.
I also noticed that the new combined tickets, now exclude the Beatles Story. Should you wish to take this in too, it will add a whopping £38 to your family day trip - taking the total before refreshments to £78. A Ticket to Ride too far!
Here’s the succinct official view from a spokesperson: “The annual pass has been suspended while we carry out a review on ticket pricing.”
I also contacted several Merseytravel board members. Sefton representative Cllr Gordon Friel, a member of Merseytravel but who does not sit on the board, said its decision was regrettable: "It may be that the cost of the pass was too low but the answer would have been to increase it, not stop it. The board appeared to make the decision on the basis of changing systems but even then they could have brought in interim measures.
"I will try and use what influence I have to try and get something in place."
Cllr John Salter, Wirral member, said: "The annual pass was discontinued for commercial reasons at the end of March this year (we are honouring the ones out in the marketplace until they come up for renewal).
“The technology platform for the pass has been discontinued and could no longer be efficiently supported going forward.
"We had not sold many in the last 12 months and supporting the pass was costing more than the income generated so there was no commercial justification to keep it. Any potential new/replacement pass will be considered by Merseytravel’s Smart and Integrated Ticketing Team as part of our Walrus Smartcard initiative."
Not commercially viable? A bargain like this?
Farewell dear ferries.
Now Stena eyes SeaFrance ferries
Mon, 30 Apr 2012
Line denies interest, but sources claim it has inspected the ships as deadline for offers approaches
Stena Line could be poised to make a late-hour bid for one or more of the three ferries operated by collapsed cross-Channel ferry firm SeaFrance, whose assets are now in the hands of the liquidator.
The ships in question are the Rodin, Berlioz and freighter Nord Pas de Calais.
The deadline for sealed bids is this Friday and a bankruptcy judge will announce his decision by the middle of next month.
A Stena Line spokesperson told IFW: “Recent reports that we have expressed an interest in acquiring one or more of SeaFrance’s three ferries is just speculation.”
However, IFW was told by a source close to the sale process that representatives from Stena Line had inspected the vessels last week, after making initial inquiries about them some time ago.
But Stena’s late interest would not lead to the deadline being extended, the source said.
Eurotunnel said it was “as determined as ever” to buy the SeaFrance vessels, while DFDS told IFW it was still undecided whether to make a bid.
DFDS and its French partner, LD Lines, on Friday deployed a second vessel on their Dover-Calais route.
P&O Ferries said it would will not be pursuing its interest in the SeaFrance ships.
Stena’s main routes are between the UK and Ireland.
FASTNET FERRY – The ferry Julia(1981/22.161grt) which had operated the Fastnet Line Cork-Swansea service, set sail yesterday under her new nameWind Perfection, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Since the route closed in November last year (having only started in 2010) the German built ferry has been tied-up close to the city-centre in Cork. The ferry awaited an uncertain future after her co-operative owners failed to secure funds of €1m plus to maintain trading on the Celtic Sea.
Earlier this year she was sold to Dutch based C-Bed N.V. who are to re-fit the vessel, believed to be carried out in a shipyard in Denmark. The 1,860 passenger capacity ship is to be adapted for a new career as a floating dormitory for Siemens in the North Sea.
The vessel will be anchored at sea from where personnel working in the construction and servicing of offshore wind-farm turbine installations will be based.
Wind Perfection will join C-Bed's fleet which is also made up of two former ferries, one of which the Wind Ambition had also served Siemens while working at an offshore wind project in the Irish Sea.
Celtic Link Ferries are proud to be the only ferry company sailing between Ireland and France- ALL YEAR LONG. Celtic Link Ferries’ ship, Celtic Horizon is the newest and fastest vessel sailing between Rosslare and Cherbourg.
Celtic Link Ferries offer people the absolute best prices for anybody travelling by car, campervan, van or motorbike.
Celtic Link Ferries have a choice of 2-berth, 4-berth, 6- berth and luxurious suite cabins. That’s not all. Celtic Link Ferries also have state-of-the-art onboard facilities including two bars, a fantastically priced restaurant, a cinema displaying the most recent movie releases and a children’s play area too.
Rory McCall of Celtic Link Ferries says that travelling with Celtic Link Ferries is a “no brainer”. “Now you can travel at Christmas time and get back to your home country without having to worry about there being no ferries available”.
Perhaps the most enticing selling point of Celtic Link Ferries is free pet travel. Save up to €140 (return) when travelling with your pet with Celtic Link Ferries. With a choice of leaving your pet in your vehicle or in the kennels supplied on board travelling with your pet has never been easier (pet passport required)!
Book before Friday 4th May 2012 and get to avail of half price cabins on all sailings before the end of May.
Book today with Celtic Link Ferries at http://www.celticlinkferries.com or phone 00 353 53 9162688.
Published on Thursday 3 May 2012 07:00
CATAMARAN users face another morning of disruption as technical problems continue to affect the service.
The engine on the Wight Rider II failed earlier this week and the service is running a revised service between Portsmouth and Ryde.
Some sailings are operated by alternative vessels and commuters are told to expect extended journey times.
The disruption is expected to last until tomorrow (Friday).
For more information, visit wightlink.co.uk
A ferry price war appears to have broken out once again between two Westcountry ferry companies.
Last year, the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company (DSRRC) slashed its prices to £5, forcing the Greenway Ferry to follow suit.
The DSRRC subcontracted the Western Lady ferry to expand into Tor Bay, but this year it has taken over the ferry company and is already advertising crossings for as low as £5 between Torquay and Dartmouth and just £1 between Torquay and Brixham.
Andrew Pooley, general manager of the DSRRC, denied there was any ferry war in the Bay, insisting the two companies had different business models.
However, Will Ford, owner of the Greenway Ferry, which employs 40 people, believes the strategy is to price him out of business.
He said: "Put simply, we believe our family-run company, which employs more than 40 local people, is being aggressively targeted by the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company running what we believe are below operational costs, creating a price war in our Torbay area of operation, emulating our services.
"One can only assume this effort is to take our company out of business then return prices back to profit level, charging any fare they wish to levy, thus giving our competitor a further monopoly and the market share of boat transport in Torbay."
Mr Ford believes DSRRC is funding its aggressive pricing policy in Tor Bay with high prices on the River Dart.
He said: "In Torbay, DSRRC is currently offering fares which we believe are up to 80 per cent discounted, then charging top dollar in the River Dart, apparently to subsidise a price war against our company in the Bay.
"Torquay to Brixham with them is currently £1 for the 35-minute crossing. However, nip from Kingswear to Dartmouth and the same company will charge you £1.50 for a three-minute crossing."
He added: "You can travel 22 nautical miles between Torquay and Dartmouth return with our competitor for £5. However, travel between Dartmouth and Totnes and you will be charged £14 for a shorter distance."
This is the second year Greenway Ferry has heavily cut its prices to match DSRRC. Only recently, as part of the jubilee celebrations, it started offering £2 cruises along the Dart between Dartmouth and Totnes. It has also cut its day cruises aboard the Second World War Fairmile by 50 per cent and its other fares by 30 per cent.
But Mr Pooley denied there was any ferry war in the Bay.
He said: "Greenway Ferry have done a good job and have been a dominant force in the Bay. They used to take the lion's share of the ferry business. They decided to increase the number of ferries across the Bay.
"We have another approach. Instead of running lots of half-empty ferries, we decided to have one ferry. We are then able to cut our cost dramatically and pass on this discount to passengers.
"The customers are happy. In the same way easyJet and Ryanair changed the aviation industry, we are hoping to transform the way people use public transport in South Devon.
"If it is cheap enough then this will factor in their choice of holiday destination.
"We want people to think they can come across to Brixham from Torquay and have a meal in the evening after having used the service in the day because it is cheap enough to do so. It will benefit traders in the town too."
While the Greenway Ferry has traditionally offered crossings between Torquay and Brixham, it is also offering trips up and down the River Dart between Dartmouth and Totnes.
Meanwhile, DSRRC also offers trips between Torquay and Brixham, Torquay and Dartmouth, trips to Teignmouth or Salcombe and along the River Dart.
Mr Ford said that in a way DSRRC had forced his hand and he, too, would be expanding his business out of Tor Bay to offer more services in Dartmouth, the traditional seat of power of the DSRRC.
He said: "Luckily enough, we have a fantastic staff of hard-working loyal people who make up our Greenway Ferry family, not forgetting our unique little seagoing ship which is the flagship of the Bay and highly cherished. This, with our commitment to our local communities and Dartmouth, is all we need.
"We love the Bay and are fully committed to staying put, providing choice and value to residents and visitors as an award-winning attraction."
Northern Isles ferry contract sends signals to west coast
Posted on May 5, 2012 by
Yesterday, 4th May 2012, Transport Scotland announced that it has appointed Serco Ltd as the preferred bidder for the NorthLink ferry routes between the Scottish mainland and the northern isles of Orkney and Shetland.
There is a statutory standstill period of ten days between the appointment of a preferred bidder and the letting of the contract, which will therefore take effect on 15th May.
The plan is for Serco Ltd to take over the ferry services for the Northern Isles this summer.
An immediate question is where this leaves NorthLink, the state-owned subsidiary of the state-owned David MacBrayne Ltd – because the state owned company has been the loser in the bidding process for a state-issued contract.
The NorthLink ships are owned and leased by the Royal Bank of Scotland. The lease will be taken up by Serco, seeing the ships and the NorthLink brand continue as the public and familiar presence of the service. NorthLink staff are to transfer to Serco under TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations.
The corporate entity that is NorthLink will either be brought to an end or be confined to limbo as an empty envelope.
Reading the reception of the announcement in a range of online news services for Orkney and Shetland, the change of provider seems of little real account locally. There is neither celebration nor complaint. This would seem to wrong foot suggestions that the making of the announcement of the change on the day after actual voting in the Scottish local authority elections was politically inspired.
The reasons for such suspicion, however, are real enough with the quite disgracefully prolonged withholding of the announcement of the change of the Dunoon-Gourock route to a passenger only service until after the Scottish parliamentary elections ion 2011. This was a shoddy little political dodge dating from the political stone age we seem reluctant to leave behind. It was painfully transparent. It fooled no one. But when matters progressed – after the Scottish parliamentary election – as they were clearly destined to do, public distaste and anger at the attempt to deceive for advantage has not dispersed. What goes around…
It is this precedent that is setting the imperative for conspiracy theorists to be alert to imaginary as much as real moves of a similar kind. And who can blame them?
In this case, we feel that there is an agenda but not one tied to the short term political advantage of avoiding dissent at the local polls.
The future of Scottish ferry services
On the Northern Isles services, Transport Minister, Keith Brown, in making the announcement, suggested that the new contractor will address problems arising in the service of the existing contractor, saying: ‘The needs of vital time sensitive freight exports like fish and seasonal livestock and vital imports like supermarket goods will be met, and the services available for passengers will be improved.
‘Passengers will see improvements to the journey experience with improved ticketing arrangements, premium reclining seats added on board overnight services, and improved catering, hospitality and customer care facilities.
‘Crucially, clear commitments that crossing times, including the 90 minute crossing between Scrabster and Stromness, will also be retained.’
This last can only indicate that the possibility of saving fuel costs by sailing more slowly had been on the cards. This seems a strange give-away in days when environmental cost is a real issue and bunker oil, a major pollutant which remains legal, is the cheapest and therefore the fuel of choice of shipping and ferry companies.
The issues to be improved, in addition to those Mr Brown mentioned, include time out for dry docking and what appears to have been the North link practice of using one of the two Shetland boats, Hrossey and Hjaltland, to cover the Orkney route when the Hamnavoe is in dry dock. Serco is to use a replacement ship on the Orkney route on such occasions, leaving the Shetland route unimpaired.
In practice, as detailed above, there appears to be little change. NorthLink pays for its use of the various piers and harbours to their respective owners and Serco will do the same. Aberdeen and Scrabster are owned by harbour trusts and Orkney and Shetland by their respective councils.
The general sense, smoothly transmitted, is that things will carry on as before – only better. Hence the calm local response to the news of the change of provider.
However, the promised savings to the taxpayer will have to come from somewhere and with crossing times now sacrosanct, there is going to be no reduction in fuel usage to set against rising fuel costs.
The use of a replacement ship to cover dry docking of the mainline ships will cost over and above the current running costs and the costs of the investment to be made in ship facilities and passenger comfort will be expected to be recoverable from somewhere.
Overall, there is something strange about this arrangement.
If the Serco proposal is to save the taxpayer money and return a profit for its shareholders, something has to give. Its business plan cannot but impact on staffing levels at some later stage after the TUPE transfer. And if crossing times are to remain ‘as is’, service frequencies may have to change. Oil is not going to get cheaper.
Serco may be a private sector company but it is one with first class linkages and access to governments. A 2006 Guardian article famously described Serco as ‘the biggest company you have never heard of’.
A sense of the company’s scale of operations and its hard wired links to government are evident in that article’s opening paragraphs: ‘Have you recently travelled on a train in northern England? Or on London’s Docklands Light Railway? Or perhaps been caught by a speed camera?
‘If the answer to any of these questions was yes – or you have spent any time in custody or the armed forces – chances are you have dealt with the support services company Serco. With almost 48,000 people helping to service 600 largely public-sector contracts around the world, Serco is probably the biggest company you’ve never heard of.’
Serco is not a natural choice as a ferry operator since the only ferry service it can point to in its portfolio is London’s Woolwich Ferry. This is a 10 minute 2-boat shuttle service straight across the Thames linking Woolwich and North Woolich 0 and the ends of the two inner London orbital road routes: the North and South Circulars.
Like NorthLink, the Woolwich Ferry is a public sector financed and licensed service and in our view, such operations are not what is generally understood by private sector enterprises. These are no more than arms-length and deniable public sector services. They lack exposure to the level of risk associated with the private sector.
Serco is already well known to the Scottish Government through its presence in Scotland, not least in its support services to Royal Navy ships. It also already runs Scatsta Airport on Shetland.
We feel that the reason for this contract award may indicate a government strategy to start moving the provision of ferry services out of what is effectively an in-house operation.
Serco is a ‘trusty’ – experienced in logistics and in military-level organisation, big and reliable. If you were a government on a mission to offload, this would be a good partner to trial a handover.
It is highly unlikely that a company like Serco would get involved in this if it were the total sum of the possibilities.
With the west coast ferry services, the Clyde and Hebridean routes, still facing possible ‘unbundling’ – ceasing to be a unitary service delivered by a single provider, it would be naive to imagine that Serco does not have its eye on that opportunity. It would be equally naive to assume that the Scottish Government is not aware of this and that the possibility of Serco involvement has not been discussed.
External evidence indicates that CalMac is aware of a very real threat to its operations and is set on doing all it can to resist.
It has recently appointed a new Managing Director whose background is in business management but not with a maritime focus.
CalMac is a very experienced company at knowing how to run the sharp end of its operation so this appointment looks very like a conscious attempt to get its business proposition in good competitive tune. The recent appointment for a replacement for the David MacBrayne group’s retiring Finance Director has been made at a level to suggest again a mustering of the right resources to compete with authority – and a determination to do so.
Looking at the overall picture sketched above, we see a battleground developing over the Clyde estuary and Hebridean ferry services in which Serco may play the part of a basking shark, swimming with its mouth open but leaving the odd side snack afloat for local players to grab.
FERRY IMPRESSIVE JOURNEY TIME
BRITTANY FERRIES new sailing season for 2012 started earlier this month with the fastest direct ferry crossing from Ireland to France of 14 hours. A family of four can travel with their car in a four berth cabin from €140 per person return, a total of €560. There's also 15 per cent off fares when an inclusive holiday is added to any booking.
The Brittany ferries brochure includes holiday camping villages, sea-side apartments, rural gites and hotels. Departures from Cork are on Saturdays at 4pm, arriving in Roscoff at 7am. Return sailings will depart at 9.15pm on Fridays . You can order the brochures from Cork on 021 427 7801 or visit brittanyferries.com.
News that two of Portsmouth Harbour’s most familiar vessels might be phased out in a couple of years, prompted this look at the various ways we’ve bridged the gap between the city and Gosport.
The Gosport Ferry company has announced plans to design and build a new ferry ready to enter service in 2014.
And the two oldest ferries, Gosport Queen and Portsmouth Queen, are expected to be sidelined. They were both built in 1966.
The announcement of the new ferry comes exactly 172 years after the harbour’s first steam-powered ferry, a floating bridge, made its way from Portsmouth to Gosport on its maiden crossing in May 1840.
Two years earlier 1,100 harbour watermen, fearing for their livelihoods, had petitioned Parliament urging the rejection of the enabling act for the floating bridge. They failed.
The floating bridge was run by two 16 horsepower steam engines and ran along two chains which had balance weights attached to each end.
This was so that ‘in the roughest weather no motion is perceptible to those on board’.
After the 12-minute crossing, enthusiastic passengers praised the ‘smooth and noiseless operation’.
In its first week the business exceeded all expectations carrying 12,466 passengers, 568 vehicles, 20 oxen and 117 sheep, as well as the mail.
Humans were charged a penny to cross though entrance to the ‘best room or cabin’ cost 2d (1p).
A horse-drawn carriage was 6d while livestock was three farthings a head.
During the cholera epidemic of 1849 bodies were ferried across on the bridge to be buried at Browndown, Gosport. It’s not known how much was charged for a corpse.
Union concern over Northern Isles ferry contract
Serco Ltd will take over the running of the service from Northlink
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The maritime union Nautilus International has said it is concerned about the announcement of Serco as preferred bidder for the Northern Isles ferry contract.
The union, which represents 23,000 maritime workers, has called for urgent meetings on the future of the routes.
It has claimed the bidding process has caused "alarm and uncertainty".
Announcing the preferred bidder status, Transport Minister Keith Brown said it would improve the "journey experience".
The six-year contract for the ferry services is worth over £243m.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said: "Once again, the bidding process for Scotland's lifeline ferry services has sparked unnecessary alarm and uncertainty.
"We strongly dispute the need to put these essential services out to tender every six years, with all the resulting fears for the future that this generates for staff and public alike."
The union said it would seek a meeting with Serco to discuss pay, conditions and pensions provision for people employed by the current operator NorthLink.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said of the proposed new operator: "Passengers will see improvements to the journey experience with improved ticketing arrangements, premium reclining seats, added on board overnight services, and improved catering, hospitality and customer care facilities.
"Crucially, clear commitments that crossing times, including the 90-minute crossing between Scrabster and Stromness, will also be retained."
Serco Ltd will assume control of the Northern Isles ferry services from summer 2012.
Chief executive of Orkney Islands Council, Albert Tait, said last week: "What's missing at the moment is information about the timetable arrangements Serco intend to operate on the Pentland Firth and the Orkney, Aberdeen and Shetland routes.
"NorthLink provide a high level of local employment and it is vital that Serco maintain this."
Bangladesh Shipyard Launches Danish RoRo Ferry
Tuesday, May 08, 2012, 4:13 AM
'Isef Jord ': Photo credit Western Marine
Western Marine Shipyard -- the emerging country's top shipbuilder – has launched a RORO ferry for Denmark's Hundested Rorvig Faergefart
Western Marine Shipyard has launched the 50 m long ferry Isef Jord a Danish roll-on-roll-off passenger ferry, constructed under the supervision of classification society Bureau Veritas.
The ship will be owned by Danish ferry operator Hundested Rorvig Faergefart. The contract for the ship is worth more than BDT 36 crore.
Denmark has a huge global fame in building the best quality ferries. In-fact, several inland ferries being used in Bangladesh were imported from Denmark, but now the tables have been turned, and from now on, Bangladesh is going to export ferries to Denmark. Thus Western Marine believe that, with the launch of this ferry, a new chapter for the shipbuilding industry of Bangladesh is being opened.
Western Marine was nominated for this project by the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA).
The ferry is expected to be handed over to the owner on June 2012.
Stena joins bidding for SeaFrance vessels
Ferry firm changes its mind, but is not eyeing adding to competition on the Channel
Stena Ro-Ro has confirmed it has submitted an offer for one of three ferries formerly operated by collapsed cross-Channel operator SeaFrance.
It joined Eurotunnel and DFDS in making offers for the vessels before the deadline for bids closed last week.
The Stena subsidiary did not disclose which vessel – Berlioz, Rodin or freighter Nord Pas de Calais – it was looking to acquire, but a spokesman said that if the bid was successful, it would not be deployed on the Channel. The ferry operator’s main routes are between the UK and Ireland.
A source close to the sale process told Lloyds Loading List.com that Eurotunnel had put an indivisible bid of €65 million on the table – €61 million for the ships and €4 million for the rest of SeaFrance’s assets.
The source said DFDS had offered €30 million for the Berlioz and €25 million for the Rodin, and Stena €30 million for the Rodin.
The liquidator will present his recommendations on the bids to the bankruptcy judge handling the sale, who is expected deliver his verdict on 21 May.
However, given that the offers fall well short of SeaFrance’s liabilities, estimated at €150 million, the judge could call for a second round of bidding.
The source said:â€ˆ“I think this is likely, given that the offers are very low. A vessel like the Berlioz (pictured), which is only seven years old, would cost €140 million to build.”
SeaFrance ceased operations in November 2011 but had been carrying 550,000 trucks and three million passengers a year.
Former MD of Brittany Ferries Jean-Claude Giguet is piloting Eurotunnel’s proposed ferry operation between Calais and Dover, which would include hiring more than 500 ex-SeaFrance staff.
DFDS, which currently operates two vessels on the Dover-Calais crossing manned by around 300 ex-SeaFrance workers, declined to say where it plans to deploy the two SeaFrance ships it is bidding for.
Serco deal for Northern Isles ferry contract postponed
Serco Ltd was due to take over the running of the service from Northlink
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A deal which would see Serco take over the running of the lifeline ferry services that link Shetland and Orkney to the mainland has been put on hold.
The Scottish government said it had to postpone plans to sign a six-year contract with the firm after one of the other bidders mounted a legal challenge.
Streamline said it had a stronger case for running the route.
Serco was announced as the preferred bidder earlier this month.
The ferry is one of the main modes of transport for people in the Northern Isles. The contract to operate the service is worth £243m.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: "We can confirm a legal challenge has been lodged and ministers cannot enter into a contract until this has been resolved by the courts.
"We cannot comment further at this time.
"All parties involved hope to see a speedy conclusion and we will work closely with our partners to ensure the lifeline services continue to serve the communities of Orkney and Shetland."
The maritime union Nautilus International has raised concerns about the announcement of Serco as preferred bidder.
Earlier this week the union, which represents 23,000 maritime workers, called for urgent meetings on the future of the routes.
Saturday, May 12, 2012 by
Ferry master’s safety claims turned down
A Gozo Channel captain who had been suspended after making a string of safety allegations was reinstated without any disciplinary action being taken against him, despite only one of his claims having been upheld.
Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against Capt. Mario Grech in 2010 after an inquiry into a list of damning claims he had made about the safety of the Gozo Channel ferries rejected all but one of his allegations.
The latter landed the company’s HR manager and a boatswain in court over the falsification of a certificate that secured the latter’s job.
However, the inquiry rejected a string of other claims that dealt with a supposed lack of lifesaving equipment and safety drills. The board highlighted a number of shortcomings deemed to be “not serious”.
This week it emerged that Capt. Grech had been reinstated this March, but the move was not made public.
Yesterday, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, who is politically responsible for the Gozo Channel company, said the disciplinary board felt there was no reason to take any action against Capt. Grech, who went public with his claims in a judicial protest in 2009.
The position jars with stiff criticism levelled at Capt. Grech by the Gozo Channel management, which had even suspended him without pay, before Mr Fenech intervened to make sure he still received wages.
Yesterday, when Mr Fenech was asked about the board’s failure to take disciplinary action, he said he respected but did not entirely agree with its decision.
The minister’s comments came as he confirmed the company was looking into fresh claims made by Capt. Grech (this time not in public) about the ferries’ safety.
Last week, the captain refused to allow more passengers on to the MV Gaudos on an early April 30 trip from MÄ¡arr because a safety exit’s certificates had not been renewed.
Although the board was looking into the matter, Mr Fenech said the safety certificates had been all in order when they were checked in view of Capt. Grech’s claims three years ago.
Mr Fenech also confirmed the police were investigating “personal incidents” involving Capt. Grech and another person.
According to sources, a company senior official tried to have Capt. Grech removed from the ferry the day he refused to embark passengers to capacity.
Moreover, in what sources said was a connected incident, the company’s operations manager George Borg appeared in court accused of damaging Capt. Grech’s property at his GÄ§asri home and slightly injuring and threatening him.
The case is pending.
Catamaran red tape
Recently, I was allowed to board the catamaran to Sicily only after I had the length of my car measured. A few days later I went to book another trip for June, using the same car, same registration number – but... they had to measure my car again. My wife and I assured them that the car had not been extended in any way since our trip a few weeks ago.
My wife noted that the officers involved were trying to measure my car far away from the front and back.
She drew their attention to this and they moved to measure the car correctly. Could they not take note of the chassis number from the log book to ensure that the car is the same one on their records with the same length.
Or is this perhaps an indirect way of charging more for the trip?