The contract for the island service was ended in March during lockdown and has led to a period of tension between the parties with only a verbal agreement now in place.
Herm Travel Trident managing director Peter Wilcox said the contract was ended by Herm Island, but Herm CEO Craig Senior said it was actually ended by mutual agreement.
‘The contract was nine years out of date and had been just left to run,’ said Mr Senior.
He said since then he had tried repeatedly to meet with Mr Wilcox to get a long-term contract, but without success.
In September, Trident had said it was not in their best interests to have a contract at this time, Mr Senior said.
‘We have even brought in the States of Guernsey to arbitrate,’ he said.
‘But he has declined to meet with us. At the moment we are waiting for Trident to come back to us.’
Mr Wilcox said Trident had faced a very difficult year, with the loss of revenue from visitors and from cruise ship tendering.
Normally by the end of September there would have been nearly 70,000 people travelling between Guernsey and Herm.
This year there have been just 35,000 and during lockdown there were no visitor sailings to the island.
But there have also been some tensions between the ferry company and Herm Island.
Since the 1980s that had been a contract between the businesses, with Herm paying a retaining fee to Trident to bring over island staff, freight and residents.
Mr Wilcox said Herm was trying to negotiate a new contract for a year-round service, without paying a retaining fee to Trident.
Mr Senior confirmed that Herm was looking at its operating costs in light of Covid-19 and trying to find the best way forward.
Mr Wilcox felt the island management had been quite commercially aggressive in its stance, but had not necessarily appreciated the overheads the ferry company faces, especially in the winter when very few passengers were using the service.
‘So now we have a casual agreement with Herm, which is quite complicated, but both companies feel comfortable where we are at,’ Mr Wilcox said. He hoped they would come to a formal agreement again.
In the past the company would offer 15 sailings a week during the winter.
This has been scaled back to three days of sailings.
‘It’s very difficult for us,’ he said.
‘We’ve got to make ends meet. We’ve taken a real hit this year.’
He said they had enjoyed a wonderful working relationship with Herm in the past, but he was concerned about the future, with rumours that Herm Island might be looking to have its own ferry service.
There had been multiple ferry operators to Herm until the 1980s, but Trident, with more than 50 years’ experience, has been the sole operator for three decades.
‘It is a bit of a worry, but we are just going to see how it will go and we hope locals will support us,’ he said.
Mr Senior confirmed that running its own boat service was something island was looking into, as it was important to ensure there was continuity of service.
‘It is always dangerous to have just one supplier,’ he said.
‘I’m not saying that is the case here, but it can be taken for granted. So we need to look at alternative options.’
Water Taxis to be used over winter
HERM ISLAND is looking like it will have a good winter and water taxis will ensure visitors will be able to reach the island.
Normally Travel Trident offers regular services during the winter, but these have been scaled back to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
There will be water taxis operating to cover anyone staying in the accommodation and unable to use Trident. This is only the second winter in recent years where people can stay in the island throughout the period.
Herm CEO Craig Senior said October and November bookings are well up on last year.
Christmas bookings were already double on last year.
‘There are only a couple of rooms left,’ he said.
‘We’ve been really grateful for the support of the Guernsey community.’
The island has decided to keep on 20 summer staff, who would normally have left at the end of the summer season.
Mr Senior said many of the staff were from Eastern Europe, so rather than have them go back there or go to Guernsey and be unemployed, they decided to keep them on.
‘We’ve got people who helped us out,’ he said.
‘We did not want to make them homeless.’
Instead they will be kept busy with a number of jobs that will be taking place around the island over the winter.
‘We are extending the campsite and we are doing a lot of estate work, like improving the fences,’ Mr Senior said.
‘We are just refurbishing Lower Belvoir Cottage, which will be self-catering.
‘And there will also some infrastructure work.’
There is also redecorating going on inside the hotel.
One of the most visible changes is likely to be some vital work on the Mermaid toilets, which stand across the track from the pub.
Mr Senior said the current facilities were ‘a bit ropey’. The island team is now working with the planners to knock down the block and rebuild it as a larger, more modern, toilet block.
Herm Christmas shopping trips will be taking place as usual, at a cost of £3 for adults and £2 for children, with tickets purchased on the day.
The trips are organised by Travel Trident and the price has gone up to help cover the costs of a quieter summer due to Covid-19.
The first sailing will be on Saturday and there will be three rotations a day on Saturdays and Sundays every weekend until Sunday 6 December.