The Ir­ish cap­tain of in­dus­try whose ca­reer is all at sea

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Mark Evans

TRAV­EL­LING for work can be a bit of a drag — un­less you’re Tom Con­nery that is. For most of us, com­ing home from a work trip nor­mally in­volves a wait for the bags, a queue at pass­port con­trol and drag­ging your cases to the air­port taxi rank.

For Con­nery, it meant nav­i­gat­ing a 90,000-tonne ocean liner slightly shorter than the Eif­fel Tower through Dublin’s bustling port.

Con­nery, who hails from Hook Head, got a bird’s eye view of his home in Dublin’s Marino — just a stone’s throw from the Ocean Pier — as he took one of Cu­nard’s grand dames, Queen Vic­to­ria, for a home­com­ing with a dif­fer­ence.

This col­umn caught up with him on board the most Bri­tish of in­sti­tu­tions — it fea­tures a Bri­tan­nia Club restau­rant, Queen’s Room for ball­room danc­ing and Royal Court Theatre — as it geared up for the Bri­tish royal wed­ding as it sailed around Ire­land and Bri­tain.

Still, the Ir­ish are in com­mand on Vic­to­ria, launched by Camilla Parker-bowles, and given a €39m makeover last year. Antrim’s James Cu­sick is head of ho­tel op­er­a­tions, while Nuala O’don­nell, from Done­gal, is a third of­fi­cer, over­see­ing the bridge.

Ocean-based hol­i­days are big busi­ness for Ire­land, with more than 150 ves­sels due to dock in Dublin alone this year, con­tribut­ing an av­er­age of €1m a pop to the lo­cal econ­omy from high-spend­ing tourists, most of them older and Amer­i­can, Bri­tish or Euro­pean.

Still, there are chal­lenges. The port’s head of cruise busi­ness, Pat Ward, told the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent that it’s look­ing to in­vest up to €1bn to make the port shipshape.

And in­vest­ment is needed. Con­nery, who stud­ied in Cork IT and the Na­tional Mar­itime Col­lege of Ire­land, re­vealed that Dublin is one of the trick­i­est ports to nav­i­gate into, given its nar­row width and the num­ber of ships pass­ing through it.

So if you’re grum­bling about driv­ing around our cap­i­tal, and find­ing a park­ing spot, spare a thought for the world’s mariners. With its Air France sis­ter in the wars lately, KLM Royal Dutch Air­lines has been keen to spread its own bit of good news. Re­cent re­search by the Univer­sity of Syd­ney claimed that the car­bon foot­print at­trib­ut­able to global travel is four times worse than feared — and air travel is a ma­jor cul­prit, de­spite ad­vances in fuel-sav­ing air­craft.

Now KLM is off­set­ting its car­bon foot­print in a ma­jor way. It’s us­ing sus­tain­able bio­jet fuel for its route from Am­s­ter­dam Schiphol to Vaxjo in Swe­den, and also com­pen­sates the to­tal re­main­ing car­bon diox­ide emis­sions by part­ner­ing with Vaxjo’s air­port. The com­pen­sa­tion in­volves re­for­esta­tion in Panama.

Nasa has es­ti­mated that a 50pc avi­a­tion bio­fuel mix­ture can cut air pol­lu­tion caused by air traf­fic by 50pc-70pc. KLM, which also uses the fuel on its LA route, is among a group of air­lines look­ing to in­crease its bio­fuel us­age. Oth­ers in the initiative in­clude Bri­tish Air­ways, Cathay Pa­cific, Eti­had, United and Vir­gin At­lantic.

But not ev­ery­one is con­vinced — in­clud­ing Ryanair CEO Michael O’leary. He told an au­di­ence back in 2015 that “no­body is re­ally fly­ing around the world on air­craft pow­ered by bio­fuel — it’s gen­er­ally all pow­ered on kerosene, the rest is a PR stunt de­signed to ap­peal to some mid­dle-aged, mid­dle-classed per­son wor­ry­ing about the fu­ture”.

His ap­proach is to utilise modern fuel-sav­ing air­craft to make his fleet greener — and with greater fuel ef­fi­ciency cut­ting down on costs.

“We are Europe’s lean­est and green­est air­line as we have the youngest fleet and so burn less oil ... on a per pas­sen­ger ba­sis we are burn­ing the least CO2 emis­sions, but other than that I don’t re­ally care about all that stuff,” he ar­gued at the same event.

Scan­di­na­vian Air­lines — which has had the long­est pres­ence in Dublin of all for­eign air­lines — is promis­ing on-board con­nec­tiv­ity that will be 10 times faster than tra­di­tional wifi.

A spokesman here said: “Pas­sen­gers on SAS short- and medium-haul routes will now have ac­cess to a sta­ble, fast and strong wifi sig­nal, en­abling them to stream movies and work in­flight prob­lem-free.”

SAS Plus, Eurobonus Di­a­mond and Gold trav­ellers can en­joy free wifi all the way. Pas­sen­gers in Go, or Econ­omy pas­sen­gers, will have to pay €4.90, or the equiv­a­lent in other cur­ren­cies.

SAS said that Sil­ver mem­bers will be of­fered free wifi in the launch cam­paign pe­riod from last week to Au­gust 19.

To­mas Con­nery, the Ir­ish cap­tain of Cu­nard’s Queen Vic­to­ria, in Dublin. Photo: Mark Evans

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