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 Causeway Coast and Glens Council and Donegal County Council it cannot run the service in 2017 on the same terms as 2016. Causeway Council has 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 €75-100,00.
Mr. O’Sullivan said the company would be interested in continuing with the service, but only if both Causeway Council and Donegal County Council provide financial support to underwrite the losses until it establishes itself as a self sustaining business.
He said they believe that the service has very significant and, as yet untapped, potential with economic benefits in terms of tourism, and creating employment.
“We have many years of experience in the ferry industry.
“We had a limited period of time to plan this service in 2016, it was all quite rushed.
While we regret we did not make money this year, we see it as a learning experience.
“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.
“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.
We believe it will take in or around three seasons of consistent delivery before the public really trusts the service. ”
Mr. O’Sullivan said they’re keen to operate the service in 2017 and they believe they can turn it into a successful business.
He said during that three-year period of transition or so, “we would require the support and the belief of the councils”.
Mr. O’Sullivan said they’ve informed the Council’s that we cannot run the service if we do not secure that financial support.”