Condor wants security to buy £70m. ships

CONDOR Ferries will need new ships on its UK and St Malo routes by 2020, its chief executive said yesterday.

James Fulford

CONDOR Ferries will need new ships on its UK and St Malo routes by 2020, its chief executive said yesterday.

But the cost of new vessels, likely to be in the region of £70m. if built from new, is going to be a real challenge for the ferry operator and its owners to meet.

James Fulford told yesterday’s Chamber of Commerce lunch that the firm would need greater certainty from the States of both islands to ensure that the infrastructure fund which owns it would stand a chance of seeing a return on such a considerable investment.

Condor has a licence to operate the islands-UK route until the end of 2018, but very little in terms of protection, Mr Fulford, pictured, said.

Mr Fulford said that he was not expecting a subsidy from government, but was hoping that some kind of ‘partnership’ agreement with the States would be found.

Comments for: "Condor wants security to buy £70m. ships"

PLP

The States has previous when it comes to buying up transport operators (Aurigny) so it will be interesting to see what happens here.

Of course ferry links are quite important to our friends in Jersey too. Perhaps Guernsey and Jersey will both buy a holding in Condor?

Nathan

Perhaps CT Plus could make an offer...

Bad idea

Maybe we should buy Condor like we did Aurigny.

Get Aurigny some new Embraers and Condor sme top spec boats.

PLP

...of course we could always sell them Asterix.

Island Wide Voting

Isn't the gentlemen merely seeking some sort of hint /promise that their current licence to operate will be continued beyond 2018?

Something for the new Harbour Director to cut her teeth on

laurie carre

and why not, condor need some kind of assurance to spend vast amounts of money that they have a long term licence. We can all find some kind of problem in the past, but condor are still here, unlike a number of others.

Matt Fallaize

Laurie

"...Condor are still here, unlike a number of others."

Hear-hear. And their demonstrable commitment and resilience, proven over many years, must surely be a key consideration in any dialogue about a longer-term licence.

Dave Jones

I am not against a closer relationship between the Island governments and Condor Ferries; after all we don’t have ferry companies queuing up at the door trying to get on to these routes. Condor have by and large given good service over the years with the noticeable exception of a couple of periods in its history.

The freight service has also been very good and with 90 % of the islands goods coming in by sea it is absolutely vital that we look after that service.

If we had closer ties and a financial stake in the company coupled with some guarantees on service provision and new vessels which would indicate long term investment then we could also make sure that the Guernsey arm was treated more fairly than it has been for some time.

The truth of the matter is that nobody out there cares what happens to us as a group of islands, which is why we have had to invest in our own fuel security and our air links. We simply cannot rely on anybody anymore and if we want to function as independently as we can and protect our economies and the movement in and out of the islands then we will have to do it ourselves.

Jersey Harbour needs sorting out too ,only a Jersey man would build a harbour where there is no water and if that was dredged then we might get better sailing times and less delays on the journey to and from St Malo.

MP

based on those comments I hope you aren't going to be involved in trying to persuade Jersey to come in on anything like this.

Mark

Dave,

Very good points.

We own our airline, we own our fuel tankers, and both of those were bought to protect our own interests.

I do think we should own at least a small stake in Condor. I know this is going to cost plenty of money, but let's look at this way. They are quoting £70m for new ships. Without the funding can they or will they buy the ships themselves? Quite possibly not, and Condor could end up in the 'written off bad assets' bin of the owners, and the islands would end up with no company.

Lets work together. Jersey and Guernsey with some sort of stake in the firm, in return for investment and a long term commitment to the islands.

Without our financial assistance, it looks like Condor is broke. Without Condor, we're in a very lonely position sea wise, but thank heavens we would still have Huelin Renour and Channel Seaways to operate our vital freight link,

Crispin

Do you know what's at the bottom of the Jersey Harbour entrance? Look closely and you might find out why they haven't done it.

Charlie G

Comments like,"only a Jersey man would build a harbour where there is no water"( even if made in humour tone) show further evidence ,that the " romantic" notions of many Islanders who think the Islands should work together on many aspects,are sadly just "pie in the sky " hopes.

Of course ,both Islands in a common sense world should be working inteligently together on such important subjects ,as the sea transport stratergy,for the good of all the Islands.Yes Jersey should of got its harbour depths,sorted ages ago,but only seems to be further evidence of " non entante cordial"!

In an ideal " channel Island world" we should of grabbed the bull by the horns

years ago,and taken charge of our own destiny as far as the ferry service goes,YES overseen by the Islands ,and independant of any outside strangle

hold.

As for the present set up having given a " by and large" good service over the years .that is a matter of opinion ,try telling that to the thousands of unhappy passengers who have been subjected to some quite incredible situations,and had to listen time over the monotone annoucement of " ladies and gentlemen we do apologise for the late arrival/departure ,this has been due to,......."

Just look at the unbelievable situation of booking a simple thing like a private non comercial van onto any sailing,well what a farce that is!

Of course we can not rely on any outsiders anymore, its a dog eat dog world,

giving further strength for the need of a channel Island run service.Correct me if i am wrong ,but was not the present company born ,and started life in Guernsey back in 1964? Many believe ,that up until Condor started its UK runs .it gave a very pleasant personal service, inter Island and France.

State run ferry companies ,show good evidence of professional and financial strength. The following companies are proof of "self success" and continue to go from strength to strength, www.colorline.no (Norway) www.fjordline.com (Norway). www.transmeditarranea.es (Spain) .You can set your watches with all three of those companies,no matter the weather etc ,and are run with precision professionalism,unlike the present channel Island situation!

Interestingly ,in 2011 the Captain on a smilar vessel to one of Condors,from one of the above companies told me,that his company took the sensible descision to get rid of their fast ferries due to continued engine problems,which created embarrasing customer situations,affecting the company.An example of common sense thinking!!

The existing ferries are way beyond their sell by date,and and should now be consigned to the breakers yard,but this fact should not of been a surprise to the present company.Their ( ferries) performance in calm seas (all engines) was very acceptable,but TOTALY the wrong vessels for rough seas/winter conditions ,which not surprisngly either, is the bain of our area.

There is a lot to be said for the "good old days" of the plodding the waves ferries, Sarnia etc ,yes maybe 4 hrs to the UK ,but got you there in style ,with plenty of onboard activities to while away the time,and schedules to set your watch by.Use the fast ferries ONLY in the summer months if you have to!

Yes,£70 million is no laughing matter,more reason to study well ,the type of vessels suited to these seas, to assure customer confidence and a service to be proud of.

Many Islanders were sad to see the demise of Emeraude ferries,with all good reason,a charming quirky type of service,that has left many a good memory to these Islands . As soon as one stepped on bord Emeraude,you had that "virvre les vaccances" atmosphere,still unmatched to this day.

In this day and age,speed and time is money , the more runs you make,the more you can squeeze in,the more profit and so on,with the inevitable result of

companies losing grip of professional customer service,care and confidence.

Monopoly situations are not good,and give rise to over complacency, leading to bad taste.

The Islands need to THINK long and hard over the future services by sea,and beware that saying " all that glitters is not gold", and as quite rightly mentioned,who else will take us on ? The Islands had that chance years ago,but lost it, or was it a case of " better the devil you know than......".we shall never know now.....c'est la vie !

Guern

What a good post.

Matt Fallaize

Charlie G,

You make some valid points, including identifying areas where the present service is imperfect, although one is not sure what to make of your on the one hand saying that many "state-run ferry companies show good evidence of professional and financial strength" and on the other that "monopoly situations are not good and give rise to over complacency, leading to bad taste": are not state-run entities more often than not monopolies?

Anyhow, would a more formal and longer-term arrangement with Condor, or any other operator come to think of it, not provide the States with additional leverage to make demands re service provision, customer service etc.?

Charlie G

Thanks Matt....in my first posting i used the three mentioned examples of ferry companies (that i use now and again.)to show that it is possible for "state owned" companies to be sucsessful with the

correct forward thinking and realy take "on bord "public opinion and acting on,not just talk about it.

As mentioned,one of the companies realised how damaging it was to their operations having fast ferries ,plagued with engine problems ,and took the descision to replace them,a wise move by a company with professional responsibilities to the fare paying customer, the very customers who keep the company "afloat".

The ferry companies mentioned ,benifit from continued backing

by their " native land",governments that value keeping trade routes and tourism alive, and governments that show proof of strong will power in keeping their echonomies alive and kicking.Of course also most important is,that a " self" run ferry company has a better chance of survival than that of relying on an outside concern.Interestingly,all the above mentioned companies run along side other ferry companies on same routes,Stena, Dfds etc so no monopoly situation existing,but of course there is far more trade.

Ask yourself this,why do we Islanders miss and have fond memories of Emeraude ? Simple ,for the most part it was an uncomplicated easy going ,charming service, with a "dash" of romance throw in,

of which is still unmatched to this day,and that the present set up would of been well to study.Many Islanders had hopes that Emeraude would of extended its service as far as the UK.

The Islands have a lot to overcome regarding ,ferry size,types, tidal issues ,harbour sizes etc all the more reason to invest wisely in the next generation of vessels.

The channel Islands need to stop playing at this situation,and be

ABSOLUTELY certain of one thing,the ONLY way the Islands can

take charge of its future, and sea links to guarantee its life lines,and echonomic stability,and to put a stop to relying on others,( and release our heads from the guilotine),is for Jersey & Guernsey to bury the pride thing,get the bull by the horns ,and run our life lines ourselves....its the only way!

Nick Hyde

There is no detail on what type of new ferries Condor are considering for the £70 million purchase price. Are these two fast catamaran ferries, fast conventional ferries (typically max 27 knot speed) or conventional ferries with extensive cabin accommodation for overnight service?

Pete

Many of Condors problems are due to the fact that the fast ferrys are not all weather vessels and were also run into the ground(sea).

If Condor are to modernise and stay they do need assurances for the future, but they have to buy vessles more suitable for the route than the ones that they operate at present.

non-hobbit

Hold on here, lets all calm down and look at what's actually being asked for .

1) They're not after money, they're after assurances that if their Australian owners do fork out £70 million for new ships, they won't suddenly find themselves after 2018 with ships but nowhere to run them to because the States of Guernsey and Jersey have got into bed with someone else. The owning company are hard headed businessmen with no sentimental attachment to the Islands and are trying to protect their investment. Fair enough. The States should be looking at some kind of deal which swaps an agreed monopoly on the route for a fixed period for concessions on service issues.

As to what kind of vessels - I think we need to forget the wave piercers. They are temperamental thoroughbreds whose operation depends on high speed, high performance and very fuel hungry engines. If you were starting off a new service ( which is essentially what we're talking about here) you wouldn't specify them in this era of huge fuel costs.

The problem is that to have a relatively fast conventional service, you have some severe limitations on the size of ships you can build. Basically fast conventional ships need to be long and thin, and realistically you can't go any longer than the length of the current Clippers and still get into Guernsey harbour. So the crossings are inevitably going to be longer.

Third thing to bear in mind is the tidal limitations of the various ports. To have a large enough potential market the ships need to serve Guernsey, Jersey and possibly St Malo too. We're lucky because our harbour isn't dependent on tides, but that doesn't do us a lot of good, since Jersey is, and the ships have to go there too. So any deal inevitably has to involve both sets of States.

Going to be a challenge. Worth noting that McQuarrie, the bank owned investment trust which owns Condor has been massively disinvesting in some of it's other infrastructure based companies ( IOW ferries and Wightlink, where they've been laying off staff significantly). As mentioned above, a bank from the other side of the world by it's nature will only make pragmatic decisions that help its bottom line, so the States should certainly be talking to every other potential operator very seriously from now on. Can't afford to negotiate for a couple of years with just Condor, and then find the numbers aren't favourable enough and they make the decision to exit the market. This would leave Guernsey with a sea-going equivalent of the Flybe decision to pull out of Gatwick.

Interesting times ahead!.

melc

I just hope to god the replacements are fast conventional ships that can travel in all weathers and not another one these bloody wave hoppers things that permanently seem to be breaking down, running late or cancelled due to a swell more them 3 inches high. I've lost count of how many times I've been let down by them. Also I'm told that they burn fuel like it's going out of fashion. So god know what they are doing to the environment.

It's not the staff fault, It's the tools they have been given to work with are the problem. These High speed Cats have total trashed Condor reputation.

The Clipper on the other hand is probably the best ship to have ever served these Islands and often gets forgotten. The crew and the service you receive on board is wonderful and you know if you're book on those sailing's. You will get home. But her down fall is she slow because she got to travel an approximately extra hundred mile everyday to/from Portsmouth because she too big to get in to Weymouth. And there is no Sunday sailings to/from the Islands as she is charter out to Britney Ferry.

If it was left to me, my vote would be to build a smaller / fast version of the Clipper that could do the run from Weymouth to Guernsey in four and half hours in all weather like the old mail boats did and above all else BE RELIEABLE please.

Nobody minds if the jorney is slower if it's more enjoyable and relieable.

Paul

The Clipper is not chartered out to Brittany Ferries, that was the fast craft. Condor run and market their own sailings to Cherbourg every Sunday.

melc

Sorry didn't know that they are running their own service to Cherbourg every Sunday.

It's just one of those points that really niggle me. If you're going to the UK for business, I feel I can't take my own car as I can't guarantee I'll be there on a Monday morning to start work. It's far safer to fly across and hire a car and all because Condor don't feel there is a need to have a reliable service on a Sunday. Even tho I travel on them... I just don't trust them not to break down, cancelled due to weather or be running late.

The Fast Cat were in there day state of the art. But the new MD is totally correct. They need scrapping now.

I just hope they go for a small conventional ferry with a good turn of speed.

Bev Hill

melc, I agree with most of your post and am a fan of the almost always reliable "Clipper" and also the fantastic friendly and helpful staff on board (fast ferry staff please note) but hope a switch to Weymouth never happens. At least there is immediate access to the motorway (M27) and one can continue their onward journey without having to negotiate the small, traffic jammed roads around Weymouth. The facilities at Portsmouths harbour terminal building are vastly superior to anything at either Weymouth or Poole.

R1Exp

I believe Mr Fulford stated in the article that he primarily saw Condor as a "tourism operator". From what I understand, the year round Fast Ferry passenger service is heavily subsidised by the RoRo freight operation - a fact surely underlined last year when the States stepped in to prevent Ferryspeed launching their own rival service.

The top priority for any company providing a service to the Islands should be to ensure it provides a lifeline freight and passenger service first and foremost and thereafter it can concentrate on being a "tourism operator" and attracting "guests" as passengers are now referred to by Condor.

Having travelled with Condor frequently over the past year or so I believe communication at the port could be improved - there is no information available whatsoever. It is also very difficult to get through on the phone - I have waited around 30 mins to get through on quite a few occasions. Similarly, I have often been held up at check in for some time as there is only one staff member on duty - do they employ enough staff to be able to cope?

The lifeline service to the Islands also serves as a Flagship service which with a good reputation can only make Guernsey more marketable.

nic

if the states were to invest in ferry service maybe we would get decent departure times for st malo as well because at the moment condor give a terrible service for Guernsey residents on this route.Having questioned condor on timings for gsy st malo route I keep getting same answer of not enough passengers to justify any changes.I seem to remember when (the excellent) Emeraude were on this route the boat was almost always full with decent timings and good pricing and condor were also running a service maybe with better pricing and timings more people would use condor

Charlie G

Nic....you are so correct...The harsh truth is,that these Islands will always

be in a kind "hostage" situation under the present set up.

The wool has been pulled over the eyes of the Islands people so many times with excuses of why the present service has frequently and dismaly failed,that the old saying "you never get a second chance to give a first impression" should be imprinted on the sides of the vessels.

As one poster has mentioned,its not the fault of the crew,they try their best

under sometimes embarrasing situations,they are the " tools " of a poor

casting process.

Obviously the vessels are to big for our ports,but how many of us have looked out east to observe the Brittany ferries passing through our Islands

on their daily ,St Malo to Portsmouth run,and maybe like me,wishing those vessels would stop off here....their professionalism would breath much needed new life into these Islands. For those of us like me who have had the opportunity to travel on other ferries around Europe,must of surely realised that these Islands are getting a " sore" deal. Even the ferries between Spain and Africa are a pleasure to travel on!

Yes, Emeraude was the " Jewel in the Nile" , to these Islands,brilliant service ,uncomplicated booking set up, reliable and a fair fare structure, a company one looked forward to travelling with, which is sadly lacking now.

There should be no doupt in the minds of the Islands authorities ,that the ONLY solution to keep control of our life lines by sea,and ensure a careful professional watchful eye on customer service,is to hold the reigns ourselves, even if that incures considerable investment, at the start.

We live in hope!!

St Marcouf

I remember virtually empty Emeraude ferry sailings and on the occasions there were packed sailings in the summer this was only because the boats were small and much smaller than the Condor catamarans.

Unfortunately, it appears that most Guernsey residents are francophobes or have little interest in travelling to France. I know plenty of Guerns who have never even set foot in France and are more at home visiting the UK, usually some shopping centre.

Charlie G

Agreed, that sometimes Emeraude sailings were a bit empty.

There is the opinion also that the big company ,did its best to "squeeze" out the little company,who knows.

The point is ,big is not always best,and the grip on good service ,reliablity and professional customer care ,ends up on the "back burner"! ...Years back ,when Condor only ran inter Island and St Malo..their service and customer care was on the whole...pretty good,and was a channel isle concern.

Of course when Sealink "went down" Condor saw the opportunity,but over the years to follow has tried servicing to many routes, and with totaly the wrong vessels,leading to the results we have now.Sadly the lessons have not been learn't.

A shame that more Guernsey residents don't travel to "La Belle France "by sea( like Jersey residents) for breaks/shopping,far better choice,service, and lower prices than the UK....just look at the thousands upon thousands of Brits crossing from UK to France each day to shop.

Yes,it would seem more sensible ,geographically and financialy for the french route to be that of Cherbourg,however maybe St Malo is

kept for habit, and tradition?

Interestingly ,when Condor first started up,all those years back their first French route was Granville.

These Island need to think long and hard over the future of its sea life lines,and be in no doupt that the present operations ,are totaly unexceptable, as far as passenger services are concerned.

St Marcouf

If Condor has made up its mind to ditch its existing fleet of fast ferries then perhaps it should purchase or hire a larger fleet of smaller ferries which can operate or be set down according to the seasons to ensure that there is a viable year round service between Guernsey and France and the UK and not just an April to September service as at present - a small ferry running at 70% capacity during the off season must be better than the current ones running at 10% capacity.

Condor should also ditch St Malo in favour of Cherbourg in order to save time, mileage and fuel costs. It seems foolish sailing all the way down to the far flung Brittany coast when the Normandy coast is two thirds of the way closer.

alba gu brath

One of the main problems seems to be the differing requirements of the three harbours.

Would it not be viable to run the service as three different routes?

1/Weymouth to Guernsey to St. Malo with some trips just Weymouth to Guernsey

2/Weymouth to Jersey to St. Malo with some trips just Weymouth to Jersey and

3/Guernsey to Jersey to St. Malo only.

I think this would cover all requirements and perhaps, allow the possibility of different ships to serve the different routes.

It would also allow the routes to be served by different companies should the need arise.

Bewildered

Does anyone else miss the mail boats ?

Sam

Just to put in a comment on the good reliable service I have had from Condor over the last nine years travelling to and from St Malo from Guernsey on the direct service. Travelling up to four times a year over the nine years I cannot remember the last time we were not on time. The staff have always been most helpful and booking has always been straightforward and simple. (I use a Motorhome).

Ian

I have recently left the island after 22 years. In that time I have travelled with Condor many more times than I care to remember.

One of the reasons for leaving is the declining quality of travel to and from the island to both France and the UK, coupled with the increasing cost.

The staff onboard I have found to be almost faultlessly polite and helpful, but I would say that the faceless management (those money-crunching types) need a good kicking.

The boats are well past sell-by date, and it would seem, were a pretty bad choice at the outset: including the engine upgrades which by some accounts resulted in stern bearing problems almost impossible to resolve.

I agree that the Clipper service is pretty good, but cabin prices are around hotel prices

now: the cabins don't have air con and are stifling to freshair types like me. Sometimes I'd rather sleep on the deck.

I've got to come back soon to pick up some gear, not looking forward to it much.

I think the islands should invest in their own

small ro-ro as suggested above.

Beanjar

If the States are to have a closer relationship with the ferry operator I hope it also benefits islanders. Reliability of the current fleet has been a joke, it must be a major factor in future planning. The fares are disgraceful. They should be reduced, at least for advance bookings at less busy times. At least once every year I cost out a trip using the car ferry. Once I've seen the absurd cost we always end up flying and hiring a car instead. Nice business for UK and French car hire companies but it does nothing to keep the ferries operating. Everywhere else in the World ferries are a relatively cheap mode of transport. Guernsey is not so unique that the normal laws of supply and demand fail to operate. There is no reason to exploit the monopoly to this extent, charge less and people will travel more.

Guern who could become a jersey an.

Full marks to Condor, tonight 24.6.13, the sailing from Jersey was full every seat taken, therefore it was 10 mins late in leaving Jersey because the St. Malo ferry was 20 mins late arriving and it had 200 passengers for Guernsey.

On arrival we had to wait on the car deck for 20 mins because the crane driver who erases the ramp wondered off as we were late, but at least a Condor rep visited everyone on the car deck and told what was happening.

Good service Condor.

Shame about the Guernsey side of things, having spent time in Jersey, it is full of tourist and buzzing, and they seem to be trying to look after the tourist, again a side that Guernsy has lost just look at the buses, a good service down there and coaches operating tours, I personally saw 6 coaches pull at Gorey and deposit their passengers to wonder around during one morning, I bet Is

And coachwayswould struggle to fill one without a cruise liner being in the roads.

It hurts to say it but we have lost it, and need someone strong at the top to start getting it back, and sort out all the non elected civil servants who ar e ruining our Island.