Guernsey Press

States stepped in to stop ferry deal going under

CONDOR was at risk of losing the new ferry it had agreed to buy from New Zealand before the States stepped in under ‘emergency powers’ to complete the deal, Deputy Peter Ferbrache confirmed yesterday.

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Ferry MV STRAITSMAN. (32149800)

Facing an urgent question in the States from Deputy Gavin St Pier, which turned into a mini-debate on the ferry deal, Deputy Ferbrache confirmed the detail of a statement issued by Condor Ferries late on Tuesday, and also admitted that his committee had pressed the company to issue it.

Deputy Ferbrache said he had been ‘very surprised indeed’ to read the content of an interview with Condor CEO John Napton on the front page of Monday’s Guernsey Press, where he had revealed that Condor had other funding options for the ship, that he did not know why the States had invoked emergency powers to complete the deal, and that he was unclear why the States was so keen to help to buy a ferry after he had told them he wanted to improve resilience in the Condor fleet. The States has provided £3m. cash and £26m. in a 10-year loan on commercial terms to facilitate the purchase.

‘Condor were not ready, willing and able to finance the purchase of the vessel within the very strict time constraints that existed at the time,’ he told the States.

‘The confusion arose solely from their comments. This statement makes it clear that Condor was unable to complete on the vessel in the required time.’

Between them, Deputy Ferbrache and Mr Napton have now clarified much of the situation which led to emergency powers being invoked, and alluded to why the States was keen to help to buy a ferry when Jersey was not.

‘I always thought we should buy a vessel,’ Deputy Ferbrache said yesterday outside the States.

‘I wasn’t in the States at the time, but I thought the decision of the States to allow Condor to reduce its fleet from five vessels to four was a mistake. I think we needed another vessel for resilience.

‘That said, we wouldn’t have been able to proceed in the way we did unless there was a genuine emergency under the 2012 Civil Contingencies legislation.’

The Condor statement, which was circulated to deputies by a States communications officer before the States meeting, was intended to provide ‘fuller context’ in relation to the financing of the purchase.

Mr Napton said that the States had decided to work with local investors, but planned financing from the Guernsey Investment Fund could not proceed to meet the vendor’s deadline, and the chance to acquire the vessel would have been lost.

‘Had the States of Guernsey not become involved in the funding, the vessel would not have been secured,’ he said.

Deputy Ferbrache agreed that ‘absolutely’ Condor could have made the purchase privately if time had not been the key issue.

‘If they couldn’t complete on this particular day, there was another purchaser who was going to pay approximately the same price for the vessel, and that vessel would have gone,’ he said.

Condor Islander set off from New Zealand towards the islands last month and passed through the Panama Canal at the weekend. It is currently in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.