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Major retailer calls for a back-up freight ship

News | Published:

GUERNSEY’S government should be looking to secure the services of a back-up freight vessel, in case of a disorderly Brexit, Sandpiper CI chief executive Tony O’Neill has said.

Tony O’Neill, chief executive of Sandpiper CI, has praised the States of Guernsey for its communcation over how to cope with Brexit, but believes the island should be looking to secure a back-up freight vessel. (Picture by Jon Guegan, 24308803)

Sandpiper is one of the largest food suppliers in the island, and owns several franchises including Morrison’s, Iceland, Checkers Express, Costa Coffee and the Cornish Bakery.

Mr O’Neill has been critical of the States of Jersey due to the lack of communication between it and retailers. However, he said the situation was different in Guernsey and the government here was communicating better.

Despite this, he said he still had concerns about getting food into the island.

Food is brought to the island by boat from Portsmouth. But Mr O’Neill warned that with delays being predicted at Dover if there is a no-deal Brexit, operators would be looking to use other ports, with Portsmouth likely to be a favoured option.

‘If a lot more freight is going through Portsmouth, then it’s going to be under extreme pressure,’ he said.

‘My concern is that this [our goods] are fresh food. I can’t let that sit on the docks while boats are queuing.’

He said in the event of a no-deal Brexit the effect would be immediate, so it was important to be ready.

He suggested that the States needed to have a vessel to help deal with the disruption, as this sort of problem should be dealt with by government rather than a commercial business.

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A Policy & Resources spokesman said it was looking at all the options and these were under review constantly.

‘This includes the need to consider the potential worst-case scenario,’ he said.

‘The option of securing additional freight by sea does not form part of our contingency planning at this stage, but remains an option to consider should we expect greater disruption than currently anticipated and we remain in close contact with Condor Ferries in the weeks ahead.’

The spokesman added that staff had been in regular communication with the food retail industry, local wholesalers and local freight companies, as well as Portsmouth International Port.

‘Our dialogue with industry, through a dedicated food forum, is also ongoing and we thank our colleagues in all of those businesses for their hard work and cooperation,’ he said.

Juliet Pouteaux

By Juliet Pouteaux
News reporter

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