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For sale: Fastcat ferries intended for Wales link

By This is Devon  |  Posted: July 08, 2010

<P>ANY OFFERS: One of the vessels for sale in what operators Severn Link say is purely a "speculative move".  </P>

ANY OFFERS: One of the vessels for sale in what operators Severn Link say is purely a "speculative move".

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THE Fastcat ferries lined up to run the service between Ilfracombe and Swansea have been put up for sale.

Three commercial websites are carrying adverts for the sister ships named Raparee and Shanklin.

But Severn Link chiefs insist the move is purely speculative.

One of the advertisements describes the vessels as: "Two sister flying catamarans which have recently passed special survey and refurbishment works, including overhauling of all liferafts, buying fast rescue crafts, repainting, fitting of new emergency batteries, renewing of exhaust pipes, blasting and recoating of jet tubes with Belzona."

Severn Link announced last month that the launch of the ferry service across the Bristol Channel would be put back until next year.

Chairman Chris Marrow told the Journal that because of this financial projections had changed.

He said: "It's the investor who holds the mortgages on the boats that has put them on the market — but it's not something that happens overnight.

He said Severn Link was "working flat out" on re-investment plans at the moment, in order to attract funding for the building of landing facilities at Swansea.

He said once this was secured, it would act as a catalyst, allowing the company to draw down pledged grant funding from the Welsh Assembly Government and gain the licence they needed to operate.

Mr Marrow said the speculative sale advertisements were simply a means for the investor who owns the boats "to keep their options open".

He said: "But this is like putting your house on the market, it doesn't mean you're going to do anything about it, you're just testing the market.

"It could take two years before there were any expressions of interest."

He said if an offer did come in for the purchase of the boats, "we'll just have to start looking for new ships".

Robert McFarlane, chairman of Ilfracombe's High Street Traders, said: "I'm disappointed that we haven't been kept informed, having been involved in all the set-up meetings.

"If they're suffering in troubled times, as we all are, isn't it better that we know about it so we can try and offer some help to do something about it."

Town and district councillor Paul Crabb said: "I'm tremendously disappointed, especially after all the hype. All we can do is hope that they sort themselves out in a positive way, as soon as possible."

He added that in the light of the news about Ilfracombe Arts College this week and previous disappointments, the town needed to turn to itself for help.

"The only things we can guarantee will happen, are the things that we make happen ourselves," he said.

"So it's more important than ever that anyone who can help, does everything in their power to make things happen for Ilfracombe."

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    Edward Davies, South Wales  |  November 05 2010, 4:53PM

    Someone told me recently that Chris Marrow was looking at setting up a service on the Dead Sea.

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    Patrick Murrell, Clevedon, North Somerset  |  October 31 2010, 12:14AM

    Well, well -- Mr. Marrow is back again as I recently suggested he might be! The latest news, which appeared on the BBC in Wales this week is that he is now in talks with new backers -- not that he had ever said that the original backers pulled out. So it looks likely that another chapter is about to begin, and presumably Mr. Marrow has built a suitable new terminal in Swansea and either succeeded in calming the waters of the Bristol Channel or found two new craft capable of dealing with them. We shall see!

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    Patrick Murrell, Clevedon, North Somerset  |  October 12 2010, 12:38PM

    I suppose that we must now be getting close to the time when Mr. Marrow starts telling us about his marvellous plans for Severn Link in 2011! Anyone heard from, or of, him lately?

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    Derek Gawn, Ireland  |  August 08 2010, 10:28PM

    Yes, Mr Murrell, I hear they are both going for lay up at Marchwood on Southampton Water, where Solent based Wightlink vessels are normally 'moth balled'. So one must assume they were only ever to be chartered to Severnlink. That aside a very considerable sum of investers money has been wasted. I guess this ends the sorry saga.......or does it????

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    Patrick Murrell, Clevedon, North Somerset  |  August 08 2010, 10:06PM

    Yes, Mr. Gawn. One Fastcat left for Southampton last week, and the second one is due to sail from Swansea for Southampton tomorrow. So that really does look like the end, and someone must be very much out of pocket.

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    Patrick Murrell, Clevedon, North Somerset  |  August 08 2010, 10:05PM

    Yes, Mr. Gawn. One Fastcat left for Southampton last week, and the second one is due to sail from Swansea for Southampton tomorrow. So that really does look like the end, and someone must be very much out of pocket.

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    Derek Gawn, Ireland  |  August 04 2010, 11:00PM

    I am told that at least one of Severn Links fastcats returned from Swansea to the Solent on 3rd August. If this is correct I think you can wave goodbye to this service. I am totally amazed that so many people got hoodwinked by such a crazy idea using completely the wrong craft!!!

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    Ian R, Hampshire  |  July 15 2010, 1:57AM

    Having lived on the solent for many years, I have watched these craft struggle to cope with the relatively sheltered waters between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight on a regular basis. They were not well suited to that operation, and would never have coped with the longer trips on far more exposed seas, in my opinion. I am not in the least surprised to see this project fail, before it ever started. It is also widely reported that a Mr Geoffrey Ede was involved in this. It would appear that this may be the same gentleman was also involved in the Euroferries debacle out of Ramsgate. For the record, they frequently advertised a service starting, without even having acquired a vessel to run it, although one did once have a livery painted on it in the Canary Islands, only to have it painted out again, after the new operator reportedly failed to pay up. Anyone wanting further information should have a look at the bf (brittany ferries) enthusiasts forums. One of your above posters appears to be on the right lines that a vehicle ferry would seem to be a far better commercial option. I really hope it happens for you one day soon.

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    B. Williams, South Wales  |  July 14 2010, 2:31PM

    I see that the Severn Link website is still up and running. Have the website advertisers asked for, and received all their money back ? (North Devon Journal, Landmark Theatre, etc ) It would be interesting to know, goodwill and all that !

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    Chris Jones, Bristol Channel  |  July 10 2010, 10:54PM

    I like many others who know the Bristol Channel are not surprised by the latest development, I am sure like me all have been waiting for this news. Mr Murrell, like Mr Gawn, myself and others who have commented on this story know the Bristol Channel very well having been involved or followed passenger ship operations for many years in the area. The craft selected to launch this service would always have been vunerable to weather conditions and would have proved expensive to operate. Even if Severn Link had commenced a service I doubt, without extensive public sector funding it would have lasted long. The sums just do not add up! The demand required to sustain a operation of this type is just not there. Public funding as we all know is proving difficult to obtain, even on routes where ships providing a lifeline are reaching the end of their working lives for example the Isles of Scilly route. It is those who were drawn in by this episode I feel sorry for, those who found themselves anxiously waiting for a timetable to be announced and a service to start. Perhaps they can join their sorrows aboard the Balmoral and sample Bristol Channel cruising at its best!

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