Leopardess solution still adrift

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

IN SEPTEMBER 2013 the replacement of the Leopardess was given ‘must do’ status.

Here we are, more than 50 months later, with the sea fisheries patrol vessel in the water and still working. We remain months away from finding out what Economic Development wants to do.

It is another lesson perhaps that ‘must do’ projects are not always as urgent as those behind them would like to make out.

Without a sursis to Commerce and Employment plans in October 2015, around £3m. would have been spent on a new boat. That delaying move, prompted by concerns that fibreglass had been ruled out, that local firms could not bid and that the ongoing maintenance option should also be considered, envisaged coming up with a solution by March 2016.

C&E struck a belligerent tone when it produced an update report, which reminded members that it rejected the analysis in the sursis as simply wrong, but suggested it would have the independent survey done and be able to decide whether to continue with the replacement project by the third quarter of 2016.

This is a project that is drifting on and on, having dropped out of the political and public gaze.

The Leopardess will reach the end of its 20 year design life this year, but even when arguing for an immediate replacement, those in charge acknowledged how well maintained she had been.

It will take a year to build a replacement once a contract is signed and as time ticks by the prospect of working with Jersey becomes more viable. In 2015 C&E flatly ruled out sharing a boat, citing things like the increased patrol area and response times as well as higher costs because of more use.

But the Leopardess was at sea less than once a week when she was available last year, so there would appear to be plenty of opportunity. Jersey has said any issues about sharing were surmountable. Its sea fisheries vessel, Norman Le Brocq, should be in use up until 2025.

If it is not sharing one vessel it could be two, which in itself could lead to better deal with a chosen shipyard, save staff time in working on the project and provide wider capabilities.

Whatever the solution, nobody appears to be in a hurry to get there.


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