A locally owned group is investing in a new company whose sole role will be to investigate the opportunity to run an additional ferry service between Islay and the mainland. The Islay & Jura Ferry Company have over the last two years been in discussions with various parties regarding a new ferry design. The Standard Midwater Ferry is powered by LNG gas which makes it a very environmentally friendly and fuel efficient vessel. Carry capacity is 200 passengers, 50 plus cars or seven HGVs. The designers have already sought tenders with a completion date of mid to late 2014.
Chairperson of the IJFC, Donald Ewen Darroch said â€œNow that a time line has been set by the designers and ship financiers, we need to move forward with a suitable legal structure which can develop the proposal as required. This is no small task as we have to encourage the participation of new local directors plus the need to raise a considerable amount of operating capital. It is our consideration that this could be an opportunity for an island based organisation to run an additional supporting ferry service from Islay.â€ Continue reading....
The vessels would be operated on either a lease basis or bare boat charter which is standard within the marine industry. The existing directors hope that the vessel can be based and crewed on Islay allowing employment opportunities within the islands. The intention is to run a shuttle type service from Islay to the mainland, subject to the availability of port slots. Discussions are already underway with Argyll & Bute Council and CMAL regarding the utilisation of Port Askaig, Port Ellen and Kennacraig berths.
Last year the IJFC put forward a proposal to Argyll & Bute Council to take over full responsibility for running the Jura to Islay service, with the provision of a new, more suitable ferry in a few years. Although discussions are still open, Argyll & Bute Council have indicated their wish to seek tenders for the operation or to relinquish responsibility of the service to the Scottish Government.
Mr Darroch said â€œIt is encouraging that in the Ferries Review, the Scottish Government has stated a willingness to take responsibility for all existing â€˜lifelineâ€™ ferry services. We believe that reassurance allows local groups to investigate and perhaps take forward additional independent services and/or alternative routes without fear of diminishing the â€˜lifelineâ€™ responsibilityâ€.
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.