Full steam ahead for States-owned ferry plan

GUERNSEY is going full steam ahead with plans to buy a ferry, with the intention of leasing it back to Condor Ferries to run on the island’s behalf.

Policy & Resources president Deputy Peter Ferbrache and vice-president Deputy Heidi Soulsby head into yesterday’s Scrutiny Management hearing at the Castel Douzaine Rooms. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30383349)
Policy & Resources president Deputy Peter Ferbrache and vice-president Deputy Heidi Soulsby head into yesterday’s Scrutiny Management hearing at the Castel Douzaine Rooms. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30383349)

The plan has been hatched by Policy & Resources and was discussed by its president, Peter Ferbrache, at yesterday’s Scrutiny Management Committee hearing, at which he was a witness.

‘The main problem that we’re trying to address is continuity of service,’ Deputy Ferbrache said.

‘This would be a conventional vessel and the idea would be that it would enhance the service that Guernsey gets from its sea links.’

Guernsey currently has a memorandum of understanding with Condor, which is part owned by Brittany Ferries.

Deputy Ferbrache said the new arrangement, if it went ahead, would have to be tied down in a more formal contract, akin to that between the company and Jersey. However, he expressed confidence that this would be achievable within a short time-frame and that Condor would be the only company under consideration.

‘I believe they’re totally committed to the Channel Islands, now,’ he said. ‘They’ve got a chief executive ­– who’s been in office about six or seven months – who I believe is a person of substance, with considerable experience in relation to this kind of operation.’

John Napton, who was previously the director of Brittany Ferries, which part-owns Condor, replaced former deputy Paul Luxon as CEO in June.

SMC president Deputy Yvonne Burford, who led yesterday’s hearing, expressed surprise that P&R would announce a plan to make such a purchase before publishing its air and sea link policy. This was due by the end of 2021 but was delayed.

However, she was far from dismissive of the plan.

‘I think there may be a lot of merit in it,’ she said. ‘I don’t think there’s a lot of love for the Liberation [ferry] and so we may find there is a better way to go forward.’

Deputy Ferbrache did not give details of the intended contract but said it would be intended to be a long-term deal.

‘I don’t want to say “seven years” or “10 years”,’ he said. ‘I would see this lasting for a considerable period of time.’

Following the hearing, Mr Napton said Condor was interested in acquiring a second, conventional passenger and freight ferry and would have already done so in 2020 had it not been for Covid.

‘Once the States of Guernsey expressed an interest in working with us, it has allowed us to pursue this opportunity.

'While there is considerable work to be done, we are optimistic that if an additional ship could be acquired, it would improve resilience and reliability and enhance the existing services operated by Condor.’

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