Statement from DfI on new ferry operator

Wednesday 11th January 2023

We have just received the information release below from the Department for Infrastructure.

As you will read, it will bring a new operator into service from this Friday 13th January 2023. DfI have worked on contingency arrangements that allow for a direct award contract rather than a protracted tendering process given the urgency of the situation and the importance of maintaining a lifeline service.

The first reactions from the employees are positive, and the opportunity to return swiftly to a full ferry service for the island is a welcome relief.

There are details that still need to be considered and securities to be put in place but, at this stage, there is a readiness in all parties to work together on achieving the best outcome for the island, the service, and for the employees, in an atmosphere of trust and goodwill.

Again, thank you for your patience and understanding in a complex process which has, by its nature, meant a considerable amount of work that could not be shared more openly.

Statement from the Department for Infrastructure:

"New ferry operator for Rathlin Island

The Department for Infrastructure has announced that Dunaverty Limited will be the new ferry operator on the Rathlin Island to Ballycastle route.

This development follows several weeks of engagement between the Department for Infrastructure and Rathlin Island Ferry Limited in relation to matters arising from the contract between them, including the financial position of the ferry company. The Department received notification today from the company that it is to cease trading with immediate effect. Recognising the importance of the ferry service for the local community, the Department has been taking forward work on potential contingency arrangements with the expectation that these could be implemented urgently.

Weather permitting, the new operator will commence services from Friday 13 January 2023 with a passenger only vessel running five return sailings a day. Once all the relevant approvals are in place with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the full scheduled timetable of sailings will commence including the Department’s vehicle carrying vessel, the Spirit of Rathlin.

Charles Stewart from Dunaverty Limited who also owns and operates Kintra Tours commented: “I am delighted to have been awarded the contract to operate the ferry service between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle and look forward to working with the Department, the existing workforce and the local community to continue to develop and grow this lifeline service.”

The Department has an oversight and co-ordinating role in relation to the Rathlin Island Policy, which is a NI Executive policy to ensure continued and sustainable growth of Rathlin, Northern Ireland’s only off-shore inhabited island. One of the main priorities within the Policy is to provide an affordable and reliable link between Rathlin and Ballycastle and the Department welcomes that this vital link has been able to be restored for the benefit of the local community and other visitors."

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