Celtic Link Ferries may leave Rosslare
Fintan Lambe, Wexford People.
A MAJOR ferry company is threatening to pull out of Rosslare Europort unless CIE bring their charges into line with other ports around the country.
Local company Celtic Link Ferries are one of three major companies currently operating out of Rosslare, along with Irish Ferries and Stena Line, and paid €1,546,000 in charges to the port last year.
Senior shareholder Willie O'Leary said the charges at Rosslare Europort - the only port run by CIE - are the most expensive in the country and he said Celtic Link Ferries, a Wexford company, may be forced to move elsewhere, having already received offers from Dublin, Cork and CRH (Concrete Road Holdings), who are developing a port at Arklow.
If Celtic Link were to leave Rosslare Europort it could immediately wipe out the port's profit, which was €1.6 million last year.
Mr O'Leary said that in Rosslare the cost of a truck and trailer coming in or leaving with Celtic Link is €54, while in Dublin - the country's biggest port - it's €26.
He said that even the argument that CIE provide equipment for unloading is not valid as private companies in Dublin charge €12 per trailer for that kind of service, making Dublin a total of €38, compared to Rosslare's €54.
He said Cork is even cheaper again and offered the company a year free if they signed up with them. CRH have also told Celtic Link they'll put a berth in place for them at their proposed Arklow port.
'Every port is cheaper than Rosslare Port, they are charging ridiculous prices,' said Mr O'Leary. He said it's so expensive to operate out of Rosslare that it could be now cheaper for ferry companies there to build their own port than continue to pay the charges.
' When we put this to the management, they told us to go and build one,' said Mr O'Leary. ' They are not interested in reducing prices.'
Mr O'Leary said that management at the port have never shown any interest in developing it in any way and have 'now pushed the boat out so far (in terms of charges) it's uncompetitive to be in the port'.
' The whole place is a shambles, a farce. The workers are good, but the problem is the management, or the mismanagement of the port,' he said, adding that the management there are 'rudderless and spineless'.
Mr O'Leary said that when Celtic Link Ferries took on the RosslareCherbourg route in 2005 the previous operator was generating income of €390,000 for the port.
He said that this has increased four-fold since Celtic Link Ferries put the Norman Voyager ferry on the route, as well as bringing in more business and passengers to the county, but that the management of the port are refusing to budge on the price, setting unrealistic growth targets for the company, during negotiations, for it to avail of any potential discounts.
Mr O'Leary said that while they don't want to leave Rosslare Europort, they may have to and admitted they have already spoken to their customers about the possibility. He said it they move Wexford will lose out'.
'Celtic Link Ferries will be going from Ireland to France, but we don't know if it will be from the port of Rosslare,' he said.
The company is due to take possession of a bigger ferry, with better facilities, in October and crunch time regarding a decision on Rosslare could also arrive before the end of the year.
Mr O'Leary said that while companies like Irish Ferries are primarily passenger driven and also carry freight, Celtic Link are primarily freight driven and also carry passengers.
However, he said they are carrying more passengers than ever as they offer less 'frills' than can be found on the likes of the Irish Ferries Oscar Wilde ferry, but do the crossings to France cheaper than anyone else.
He said they can only continue to offer this ' low fare' ferry service if they can keep their costs in check and a move out of Rosslare may be required to do that, pointing out that the port has already lost one freight company who received a better offer elsewhere.