Bristol Ferry Boat Company goes out of business
THE Bristol Ferry Boat Company has gone out of business after liquidators were called in by the owners.
The owners of the firm, who include the city's newly-elected mayor George Ferguson, have been struggling to keep it afloat for several years.
But a mixture of the economic downturn and this summer's terrible weather combined to bring down the company, known for its distinctive yellow and blue boats. The decision was taken on Thursday to call in the liquidators and the firm has now ceased trading.
At its height in the busy summer months the firm, based near Welsh Back, employed around 30 full-time and part-time staff.
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Ferry services have already been halted and there is a question mark over what will happen to the private excursions already booked by customers.
Two other boat companies are still operating in the city docks – Number Seven Boat Trips and Bristol Packet Boat Trips – and are unaffected by the announcement.
The Bristol Ferry Boat Company was originally set up by Ian Bungard in the late 1970s but Jane Salvidge became the owner several years ago, with the support of her then husband Rob Salvidge.
The couple have since separated but businessman turned politician Mr Ferguson has also had a share in the business.
One person involved in the firm, who asked not to be named, said: "This is a real tragedy for Bristol. We have worked really hard for the last two or three years to keep the company going but in the end it was just not a viable business.
"Obviously it is a terrible shame that people have lost their jobs but at the same time, the city has lost a part of its heritage. The ferry was one of the things that made the city such a special place.
"No one is to blame for what has happened and people fought long and hard to keep the business going for as long as possible but it was just not possible.
"The business was struggling anyway as a result of the recession and then we had to cope with one of the wettest summers on record, which really did nothing to help the situation."
Mr Ferguson said: "I have been a shareholder in the company for several years but have never been involved in the day-to-day running of the company.
"I have been supporting the business but the last two summers have been particularly difficult. It got to the stage where we decided that the business was no longer viable."
The company, which ran a scheduled ferry service as well as tours and private hire trips, almost went out of business two years ago but was saved when the city council struck a deal with the company.
Mrs Salvidge, the main owner of the business, is believed to be in France at present.
Mr Salvidge has been concentrating on running The Matthew, the replica of John Cabot's historic ship.
He said: "I was involved in the Ferry Company for a couple of years and it is a real shame that it could disappear. There was a danger a few years ago that the firm could go out of business and the council got involved. The council wanted to concentrate on the ferry service rather than the excursion side of the business.
"Basically, the cost of running a waterbus meant that the price of tickets were too expensive for commuters. Sadly, the market was never going to be viable and it really took the business in the wrong direction."