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IOS Ferry Link Decision Fallout

posted Apr 3, 2011, 12:20 PM by Richard Cliffe

If you want to express your views publicly then consider a letter to The Cornishman.  Email cornishman@c-dm.co.uk.  Deadline Monday for letters being printed in Thursday's paper.

Cornwall Council has formally withdrawn from the Route Partnership.  Although some of the project costs have been covered by grants they are about £2 million out of pocket.  They did everything they could to deliver this project on behalf of Islanders and you can understand why they have decided now to bow out.

 The EU contribution £11.75 million will be reallocated to other projects so the benefit is not lost to Cornwall.  This will happen by Jun 2011.

 No alternative solution for Penzance Harbour, or anywhere else, would be approved in time to benefit from the EU money (it takes 18 months to 2 years minimum to work a project like Option Pz to the state where it has planning permission and all other approvals).

 The IOS Council will probably have to go right back to the beginning regarding planning for the long term future of the sea lifeline.


 A careful reading of the Ministers letter shows that he has yet to be convinced of the need to fund harbour works at either location.  He only agreed to give speedy consideration to simpler cheaper travel solutions (vessels).

 Option Pz+ is extremely high risk.  It is difficult to conceive of anybody being prepared to sponsor it.  It is incomplete without sea defence of South Pier and would run into opposition immediately if sea defences (rock armour on Battery Rocks Beach) was added.  It is effectively dead in the water.

The lost of the EU contribution adds 50% to the Government contribution.  A substantially reduced solution with out a EU contribution still costs the Government a similar amount. 


The IOSSC proposed fall back solution  involves the Siluna Ace, a ferry based upon a super yacht design.  It is smaller and will carry about 320 passengers after modifications.  It is slower with an expected crossing time of over 3 hours.  Because it was not designed to sit on the sea bed it would need modifications to the hull.  It is also not designed for heavy ocean seas so is likely to have significant weather limitations when licensed by the MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency).

The IOS Council and IOSSC have more immediate concerns because of the state of the Scillonian.  It only has a temporary licence to operate at present (expires in late Apr) and is limited to 434 passengers (not 600).  It is expected to be licensed for the rest of 2011.  It is not economic for the IOSSC to bring the vessel up to full compliance with current safety regulations. The expect to be able to keep it operating until 2014.

 Helicopter Service

 BIH is likely to stop the helicopter service after sale of the Heliport.  The route has performed badly and relocating would cost them several million pounds.  They publicly state they are committed to the service but may not be able to delivery on this promise.

 If the Heliport sale does not go ahead then there is a risk of them going into  administration because they will be unable to repay £5.4 million in loans due in 2011.  Their bankers are the Bank of Ireland who themselves are in serious financial trouble.  The Bank of Ireland has its loans secured on the Heliport and other BIH assets.  BIH have to sell the Heliport to survive.

 Likely Scenario

 The likely consequences of relying on the IOSSC privately funded vessel solution are:

-          Reduced throughput of passenger by sea due to reduced capacity and possibly weather limitations.  Lower visitor spending in Penzance.

-          An increase in fares to cover the cost of financing loans for the vessel and to make up for reduced numbers travelling.

-          Some overall decline in IOS visitor numbers (long stay and day visitors) due to higher cost of travel and reduced vessel capacity.

-          IOS tourist market shrinks a little (or perhaps more)and becomes more exclusive.

-    IOS becomes a more difficult place to live in the winter.  Exodus of least resiliant residents.

-          Season might shorten given that both the Siluna Ace and Skybus are affected by bad weather more than the Scillonian and the helicopter.  

How long the IOSSC will be allowed to operate from the respective piers as they do today is an unknown.  There is a raft of regulations concerning safety and security against which the harbours are not compliant.  The authorities have not enforced compliance so far.  An accident could change this situation overnight.

 At some point the IOSSC might have to move from Penzance if they cannot fund essential improvements themselves.  This will compromise Penzance Harbour as the sea link is a major source of revenue.