Proposed Harbour Rates Increase could Spell End of Fungie Boat Trips
April 19, 2012
A proposed 200 per cent increase in Dingle harbour charges could spell the end for boat trips to one of Kerry's most iconic tourist attraction, Fungie the friendly Dingle dolphin.
The eight boats that ferry tens of thousands of tourists every year to see the dolphin that has entertained tourists at the mouth of Dingle Harbour since 1983 face crippling increases in their operating costs due to the proposed 'Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates and Charges) Order 2012'.
Local boatmen say the order, which has just been published by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will mean an accumulative hike of up to 200 per cent in harbour rates, making their business unviable.
The loss of dolphin boat trips – along with other marine tours – would also have serious implications for the tourism industry in West Kerry for which Fungie the dolphin has become a worldwide ambassador.
"The only viable, longterm sustainable industry remaining in the Dingle area is tourism. Without boat trips visitor numbers would almost certainly be affected," said Tom Hand, Secretary of the Dingle Boatmen's Association.
There are eight 'Fungie' passenger boats plus two eco tour passenger boats, four deep seaangling boats and possibly two or three other boats that run Blasket Island trips. According to the Boatmen's Association, these all have the potential to be affected by increased harbour charges.
According to the Dingle Boatmen's Association, the proposed new rates could see harbour charges for a typical 10 – 12 metre passenger boat going up from €2,500 - €3,000 a year at present to between €8,500 and €9,000 a year.
"As passenger vessel owners, we have been subject to rising operating costs for a long number of years - fuel, insurance, crew wages, bank charges, boat maintenance charges, harbour rates - while at the same time, we have endeavoured to maintain our passenger charges as low as possible," Mr Hand said.
Independent TD for Kerry South, Michael Healy-rae, who met with the boatmen's association last week, said the proposal increase in harbour charges would only serve to "price people out of business".
According to local Fianna Fáil member Breandán Fitzgerald, the proposed increases in charges pose a serious risk to business in Dingle.
Tourism is a vital part of the local economy in the Dingle area and with Fungie being one of the biggest attractions for visitors this could have enormous implications for the economy in the Dingle area.