Plans for a €15m commuter and tourist ferry network in Cork Harbour, which will create up to 70 jobs, are to be lodged with local authorities shortly.
A group of private investors are aiming to have the tourist ferry service operational by next year and the commuter service up and running in 2022.
The new service will serve communities all along the harbour shores, including Crosshaven, Aghada, Cobh, Monkstown, Passage West, and on up to Blackrock, the new Docklands, and onto the city quays.
There are even plans to have a docking location at the rear of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, to bring passengers to and from sporting and concert events.
Adian Coffey, who leads the investors, Harbour Cat Ferries, said they intend to build pontoons in those areas to serve passengers and to purchase four 35m-long Catamarans, Enviro-Cat 35s, which will bring people around the harbour.
He said it was their intention to purchase two for the tourist business and two to operate the commuter routes.
“The Enviro-Cat 35s were developed in Australia for operation in environmentally sensitive areas. They are slim, of double-hull designed, with water jet propulsion to give a smooth ride, with very low wake or disturbance to the river and harbour bed,” Mr Coffery said.
The new ferries will each have capacity for 350 passengers and Mr Coffey said the commuter service will help reduce the number of cars on Cork roads on a daily basis.
He said the ferries have a top speed of 25 knots and would be able to bring commuters from Crosshaven and Aghada into the city centre within 45 minutes. Cobh would be just 25 minutes away.
The vessels, which are accessible for people with disabilities, will have toilets and a kiosk onboard serving refreshments. There will also provide space for bicycles, and pets will be allowed onboard.
The jobs being created will be for master skippers, deckhands and onshore services.
Mr Coffey said the company has had discussions with Spike Island and Blackrock Castle about increasing visitor numbers to both.
While a ferry service operates to Spike Island from Cobh, Mr Coffey said he envisaged picking up tourists in the city and taking them to the island.
The Harbour Cat Ferries plan was initially lodged in 2007 and full planning permission was granted for the commuter service for eight docking locations.
However, the plans were put on hold when the recession hit.
The timespan on planning permission has now lapsed and the investors have to reapply for it.
Mr Coffey said the upsurge in the economy and expected growth in population in the area, allied to ever-increasing cruise liner visits, now made the project viable again.
He pointed out that the recently-published National Planning Framework 2040 envisages that Cork will become the fastest-growing city region in Ireland with projected 50% to 60% population growth in the next 20 years.
“Extensive discussions have also been had with Port of Cork management, along with Cork City Council and Cork County Council management, all of whom are very supportive of the concept,” Mr Coffey said.