Wednesday, May 25, 2005
The Irish Ferries vessel MV Normandy was struck by stones and had to manoeuvre around ropes and pallets as it docked in the French port of Cherbourg last night, a passenger has claimed. The ship had spent the day waiting off the French coast as maritime unions protested at the port. Dubliners Michael and Avril Ryan, who were on board with their children, said they saw rocks strike the ship and land on the decks as the ferry approached the dockside. "It seemed a little rough. I think the ropes were there to foul the propellers and the rocks made it difficult for the crew to tie up," said Mr Ryan. Difficulties for the ferry began at about 10.30am just minutes before the vessel was due to dock. Irish Ferries said between 60 and 70 members of maritime unions blocked a ramp preventing the vessel from docking and the 793 passengers, 248 cars, four articulated lorries and two vans from disembarking. As passengers complained that they were running out of food, nappies and bottled water, the vessel waited off the harbour entrance. Irish Ferries maintained it could not safely berth while unions involved insisted only a peaceful protest was planned. Siptu official and representative of the International Transport Federation Tony Ayton, who was at the protest in Cherbourg, told The Irish Times that there was never any move to prevent the ship from docking. Mr Ayton said the protest had been planned because of the "precedent set by Irish Ferries in outsourcing its crew services to low-wage workers". It had been planned to deliver a black coffin to represent the death of Irish jobs and present the captain with a tricolour to symbolise the fact that the vessel no longer sails under an Irish flag. Negotiations to resolve the issue concluded and the ferry docked at about 7.30pm local time.