OPW announces changes for ferrying passengers to Skellig Michael

Sceilig Beag, as seen from Sceilig Mhichíl. Photo by Marian O'FlahertyThe Office of Public Works has  announced changes to the regulatory system governing the ferrying of visitors to Skellig Michael. The new system replaces the existing arrangements which have been in place since 1994. According to the OPW it is designed to ensure that improved and consistent standards of safety and customer service for the carriage of tourists to the Island are developed and maintained. According to the OPW,  current arrangements are regarded as out of date with modern practices and need to be revised. The new system will be based on an open competitive model and will be designed to address a number of specific needs – including the improvement of passenger safety, control over the use of non-local personnel unfamiliar with the seas at Skellig, better standards of customer service, and loosening of restrictive and anti-competitive practices. The OPW has decided to progressively withdraw from the existing permit scheme at Skellig and, starting immediately, to hold a competition for the selection of a new set of operators. The initial competition will be for four permits and will start today (10th of March) with competition documentation available to interested parties today. The intention will be to fully assess all responses received and have the new operators in place by the start of the 2016 visitor season at Skellig Michael in mid May. As a second step, the OPW will, at the end of the current 2016 season, hold another public competition for a further eleven permits. Under the new arrangements existing boatmen will be entitled, along with all other interested operators, to bid for a permit, but they’ll have no automatic entitlement to one. Permits will be awarded on a 3 year basis, following which they’ll be subject to a further public competition. Meanwhile Boatmen are criticising the OPW for reducing the number of days they can bring tourists to Skellig Michael. They say the new regulations have cut the number of days by 74 –  claiming a loss of 2.5 million euro to operators in the region. They claim they’ve been excluded from the process. Joe Roddy is a boatman: [audio_player src=”http://media.radiokerry.ie/mediamanager/embed/audio/53978/medium/”]