OPW announces changes to the system of ferrying passengers to Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry.

9 March 16

The Office of Public Works today (9 March 2016) announced certain changes to the regulatory system governing the ferrying of visitors to the Skellig Michael World Heritage site in Co. Kerry. The new system replaces the existing arrangements which have been in place since 1994 and 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.

The current arrangements are regarded as out of date with modern practice and need to be revised.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:

  • Improvement of passenger safety by the introduction and maintenance of consistent standards;
  • Control over the use of non-local personnel unfamiliar with the seas at Skellig;
  • Better standards of customer service;
  • Loosening of restrictive and anti-competitive practices.

The existing arrangements have, in the view of the OPW, impaired the natural development of a market-driven approach to provide an excellent service to visitors. Additionally, it is clear that there are a number of qualified boatmen locally who will be able, should the opportunity present itself, to offer an excellent level of safe and reliable service to tourists.

Having considered all of the above, 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 who will provide services which are strictly defined and which in particular recognise the unique set of safety imperatives that apply at Skellig Michael.

The initial competition will be for four (4) Permits and will commence on 10 March 2016 with competition documentation available to interested parties from that date. 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, OPW will, at the end of the current 2016 season, hold another public competition for a further eleven (11) Permits.

The full parameters of the Competition which will apply will be outlined explicitly in due course, but the main features will be as follows:

  • A total of 15 Permits will be made available following the two separate stages of public competition and this total will be maintained into the future, with any gaps replaced immediately they arise;
  • Existing Boatmen will be entitled, along with all other interested operators, to bid for the grant of a Permit, but they will have no automatic entitlement to a Permit under the new arrangements;
  • Criteria for the award of Permits will be defined within the competition and will include for example requirements relating to Marine Survey Office Licence, relevant experience, approach to safety and tax compliance;
  • Permits will all be awarded on a 3 year basis, following which they will be subject to a further public competition;
  • Terms and Conditions may be varied by OPW at any time during the 3 year period, in response to new safety requirements arising or for any reason related to the safe and/or the sustainable management of the site;
  • The award of Permits will be at the discretion of the OPW and may be withdrawn at any time for serious breaches of the Terms and Conditions or for safety infractions.

For further information, please contact Colette Davis OPW Press Officer at 087 947 5552


The Competition documentation will be available online at the following websites from 10 March 2016.