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Sark Shipping bosses ‘more than happy’ to have a review

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Isle of Sark Shipping directors have said they are more than happy to abide by any recommendations of an independent review.

The appointment of a non-executive director for Isle of Sark Shipping Sark Shipping followed a last-minute public meeting on Wednesday to explain its position and provide suggestions of a way forward as Policy & Finance looked to sack the board. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28623723)

It follows the Chief Pleas debate on Thursday which also resulted in the appointment of an additional non-executive director.

This itself followed Sark Shipping’s last-minute public meeting on Wednesday to explain its position and provide suggestions of a way forward in the face of a move by Policy & Finance to sack the entire board.

‘The management and the board of directors are grateful that the Chief Pleas have found the option to have an independent review as in our memorandum of understanding which is in our contract with the Sark Chief Pleas,’ said managing director Yan Milner.

‘We’re quite happy with how the company is run, but we welcome the independent review.’

Wednesday’s meeting had been attended by five company directors, led by chairman Peter Gill to explain the sequence of events that culminated in their attempted ousting, rejecting out of hand the series of allegations levelled against them.

It saw them give a presentation with documented evidence of emails and letters that defended their actions and pinned the blame for the company’s near-fall into administration on the members of the Policy & Finance committee.

Mr Milner said that having been told by Policy & Finance to make all staff redundant, other than the minimum needed to maintain a winter service, the company avoided paying out £50,000 redundancy compensation by instead using Guernsey States’ support to maintain the basic level of staffing required and to furlough the remainder.

On 1 June it was then told that Sark was re-opening and to provide the necessary service.

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Mr Milner said finding the proper level of qualified skippers, engineers and other crew would have been very difficult at that stage had the redundancy programme been executed and that none of the new employees would have qualified for any States’ employment support.

The board asserted that the company’s near-fall into administration was as a direct result of the Policy & Finance committee reneging on a previous agreement to lend Sark Shipping the funds necessary to meet its liabilities. A member of that committee approached the bank directly and negotiated an inferior deal than the one that had been previously offered and which now provided the bank with a mortgage over all five company vessels, thus exposing the Sark to the prospect of losing its lifeline service in one fell swoop should the Covid crisis deepen.

From expecting 13,000 visitors, business booked currently totals 20,000. The company maintained that with an untouched overdraft and a liquidity of £32,200 there is no crisis and no financial mismanagement on the part of the board.

The following day saw, after a two-day deferral, a full complement of conseillers debate and vote upon P&F's propositions that demanded the resignation of the company directors and the appointment of new executive and non-executive directors.

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Eventually Policy & Finance was asked to instigate an independent review as per the Memorandum of Understanding that formally defines the relationship between Sark Shipping and Chief Pleas –this was carried unanimously.

A further vote passed to appoint a non-executive director to provide shareholder representation at the decision-making level.

Mr Milner said that although the board of directors was only meant to accommodate six people, they would do all they could to honour the appointment of Julie Mann, as a non-executive director, which was passed on Thursday by eleven votes to five.

‘If it is the will of the Chief Please then we will endeavour to accommodate them,’ he said.

Policy & Finance spokesperson said they would now look towards the future.

‘We sincerely hope that the board of Sark Shipping, the Policy & Finance and Harbours Shipping and Pilotage committees can move forward constructively to secure our lifeline service, return to service the vessels currently out of service and develop a robust financial structure within the company,’ the spokesperson said.

‘We wish to reassure residents and users of Sark Shipping that we do not anticipate any changes within the company or disruption to services.’

Danielle Kenneally

By Danielle Kenneally
News reporter

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