€75-100k loss for cross border ferry operator

The Foyle Ferry
The Foyle Ferry
  • New tender sought to run Magilligan to Greencastle ferry

The company that operated the ferry service linking counties Donegal and Derry is understood to have lost at least €75,000 during delivery of the service this year.

Limerick-based Frazer Ferries stepped in to run the Lough Foyle Ferry Service at short notice from July until October, after former operator, Jim McClenaghan, stopped operating the service.

However, it emerged last month, Frazer Ferries has advised both Causeway Coast and Glens Council, and Donegal County Council it could not run the service in 2017 on the same terms as 2016. Causeway Coast and Glens Council have now advertised for a new tender to run the service.

Paul O’Sullivan, a director of Frazer Ferries, told the ‘Journal’ they sustained losses during the delivery of the service primarily because they delivered a more frequent sailing schedule at a 20% reduction on 2015 prices. Mr. O’Sullivan refused to be drawn on how much money they lost, however, the ‘Journal’ understands it is between €75-100,000.

Mr. O’Sullivan said the company would be interested in continuing with the service, but only if both Causeway Council and Donegal County Council provided financial support to underwrite the losses until it establishes itself as a self-sutaining business. He said they believe the service has “very significant, and as yet untapped, potential with economic benefits in terms of tourism, and creating employment”.

“We truly believe the Greencastle to Magilligan ferry can be a successful and financially self sustaining business, but only if it is given the opportunity to realise its full potential,” said Mr. O’Sullivan. “This will only happen if and when the service consistently demonstrates to the travelling public that it is an entirely reliable and sensibly priced offering underpinned by a concise marketing strategy. In our opinion, and based on our experience this year, the public does not trust the service. Until that is achieved the ferry will never realise its full potential.”

Mr. O’Sullivan believes it will take around three seasons of consistent delivery before the public really trusts the service. He believes they can turn it into a successful business but, during the period of transition, they’d require the support and the belief of both Causeway Council and Donegal County Council.