Are plans for a rival island ferry service set to be scuppered?
Founder of the Ellan Vannin Line, Captain Kurt Buchholz, says he has given the government a week to come back with a response to his application - and has indicated that if port authorities don’t come back with the answers he wants, then: ‘We might lose interest in proceeding further’.
He added: ‘The government’s slogan “Where you can” is a big joke.’
Cpt Buchholz said an announcement will be made on Thursday this week about EVL’s plans for a roll-on, roll-off daily cargo service between Douglas and Heysham, which he had hoped to launch at the end of March - and about its proposals for a TT passenger service.
The launch date for the ferry freight service had already been put back from October following delays in securing a vessel, the MV Cometa, from Norwegian shipping line Nor Line.
But EVL has yet to purchase the vessel and there are other issues still to be resolved.
Its website states that since April last year, it has had several meetings with port authorities about its application to use the government link span at Douglas for the passenger service. ‘The authorities are still checking if our application is in compliance with the user agreement and other requirements,’ it says.
Cpt Buchholz told the Examiner: ‘I can’t get a response from government. There are always playing for time. We put a very specific application in but they are reluctant to give an answer. We’ve given them a week to answer. We will make an announcement on Thursday about what’s going to happen.’
He insisted the 32-year-old MV Cometa has been ‘secured’ for purchase when Nor Lines release it once they’ve acquired a new vessel from China. He admitted that might not be in time for a March launch date but added: ‘That’s not the only ship. A lot of different ships have been offered - we have a choice.’
A diffent vessel would be required for a passenger service as the MV Cometa can only carry up to 12 passengers.
Under the terms of the user agreement, any passenger service using the government link span at Douglas would have to operate between two different ports and call in to the island en-route. It could do so up to 24 times a year.
Director of ports Ann Reynolds said: ‘There has been a number of developing proposals from EVL, which we have tried to deal with and given guidance over the user agreement.
‘There has been one firm proposal over the last few months regarding a possible freight operation using a vessel with a side loading ramp, potentially operating a daily service which we were led to believe would come into operation at the end of March 2014.
‘Regarding a passenger service there have been several discussions regarding details and questions over the user agreement, the aims of EVL in terms of passenger service and general harbour operations. These talks are still continuing.’