European Exemption Certificate Could See Scillonian Operating Winter Service

scillonian 2012The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has written to the European Commission to request a safety exemption, allowing the Scillonian III to sail during the winter period, from November to March.

The letter was sent in May this year and came to light following a Freedom of Information request by the Isles of Scilly transport campaign group FRIST.

The exemption is needed because the Scillonian III doesn’t meet all the required EU legislation for passenger vessels, which was introduced after she was built in 1997.

The recent update of the vessel, including a reduction in passenger capacity to 450, has brought her into line with EU law, except in one area.

The water tank for the fire sprinkler system is located in the wrong place and can’t be moved.

The MCA describes the boat as a “lifeline service” and says the problem is “unique” which is why they’re asking for the exception to be made.

In a statement, the MCA said they’re satisfied that the boat meets the national safety standards and, in their opinion, the EC standards too.

They added that the EC decision should only have a bearing on whether they can issue a passenger certificate for any part of the winter period and night-time operation.

FRIST’s Dick Cliffe says they made the FOI request so they could better understand the licensing constraints on operating the ferry, which, they say, is key to understanding whether she can provide a basic winter service.

They’ve been campaigning for a government-subsidised winter service on the route from Penzance to St Mary’s.

However, FRIST also believe that their enquiries might have encouraged the MCA to write to the EC, “to regularise the licensing of the Scillonian III.”

We contacted the Steamship Company to ask if they had made a request to the MCA for an exemption from EU legislation, allowing them to run a winter service, but they declined to comment.

However FRIST said they’d be delighted if the Scillonian qualified for a licence allowing operation throughout of the year.

“It would be a just reward for the operator’s recent large investment in a refit,” they said.