A replica famine ship, which cost Irish taxpayers nearly $16 million to build, is now valued at only $171,000, and the visitor attraction is losing money on an annual basis.
Significant water damage was found on the Jeanie Johnston in 2011, but due to insufficient state funds, the vessel remained berthed in its permanent position in the Dublin Docklands for three years before it was repaired.
The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) says it did not have the funding to dry dock the vessel despite the ship’s earned annual revenues of $32,400 (€30,000) as a tourist attraction.
Repairs costing $54,100 (€50k) were eventually carried out on the vessel, and since then taxpayers have had to shell out $27,000 (€25k) to $32,400 (€30k) for additional work.
Another $541,000 (€500k) would be required to make the ship seaworthy and suitable for training, as had originally been intended.
The ship has cost the government at least $243,600 (€225k) over the past five years, with a loss of $48,7000 (€45k) each year. Last year’s costs increased to $70,4000 (€65k) due to the repair work.
The Irish Examiner reports that DDDA representative has admitted they “did not follow best practice in failing to bring the ship into dry dock every two years to survey it."
They claim the ship "could be worth up to $650,000 (€600k) when revalued.”
Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness criticized the DDDA last week, saying the extent of the losses had to be determined before the vessel is handed over to Dublin City Council.
“Regardless of what way you look at it, it’s costing the State a considerable amount of money each year and if it goes to Dublin City Council, it’s still going to cost unless you have a business plan,” said McGuinness. “Now we have to quantify [the losses] for the taxpayer, it is not acceptable as it stands.”
Fine Gael’s John Deasy questioned the DDDA’s assertion it had significant tourism potential: “If you do the maths, the number of people visiting the ship are very low— about 5,000 per year— and it doesn’t add up that it should stay there.”