A new £50 million ship could be in operation by October
|Austal’s 102-metre trimaran|
Condor ferries are in discussions with the Jersey States in respect of a long term operating licence with the company for the UK Channel Islands ferry routes. Senator Alan Maclean, Economic Development Minister announced last week.
In the meantime, the company has been given an interim five-year licence after its previous one expired at the end of 2013. As part of the new arrangements, it is also reported, that provided all goes well. Condor will replace two of its existing fast ferries with a new £50 million Next Generation 102m Trimaran. The new ferry, built by Austal in Australia, with defence subsidiaries in the United States and a commercial shipyard in the Philippines, has a capacity for 1165 passengers and 245 cars. It is proposed that the ferry will be in service by October of this year (2014).
The Condor Express and the Condor Vitesse, now operate from Weymouth, with Condor Rapide usually operating out of Poole. The three current ferries have essentially the same capacity and dimensions with space for up to 175 vehicles and 741 passengers, and slightly fewer passengers on Rapide. A comparison between the new vessel and the existing ones reveals striking differences.
The new ferry is 102 meters in length, with a beam of 27 meters as compared with the 86 meter length and 26 meter beam of the other vessels. The increased capacity from 175 vehicles and 741 passengers, to 250 vehicles and 1165 passengers,will provide adequate flexibility for increased passengers traffic to the Channel Islands, when and if the Tourist bodies in the islands are finally able to regenerate the tourist industry and attract higher numbers of visitors.
There is however, a small question mark which could cause a problem for the authorities and for Condor. The "problem" may be ferry terminal 3 at Weymouth Harbour. Readers may recall that Weymouth terminal three, first became a news story back in 2012, when crumbling and large cracks were discovered in the pier surfaces and roadways close to the terminal building . It was decided then, just prior to the 2012 Olympic Games, (Weymouth was a venue for sailing and other water events), that the ferry terminal would be closed until the necessary repairs had been completed and in the meantime, Condor would transfer its Channel Islands and France sailings to Poole.
|Cracks at Pier 3|
During the course of the remedial work at Weymouth however, it became apparent that the foundations of the pier, below the waterline close to the vehicle loading ramps, had become badly damaged and would require immediate work. This additional repair extended the schedule and date for completion, and added significant costs to an already expensive restoration project. The final bill for the repairs was in excess of £4.5 million and the programme was completed in mid 2013, with Condor restarting its operations in July of 2013, almost 12 months later than planned.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, having spent such vast sums of money on repairing the terminal facilities may well expect to achieve a reasonable return on their investments from increased tourists visiting the town for overnight stays when using the ferry or from additional revenues generated by the ferry operator.
Clearly, the size of the new vessel is significantly greater than the existing ones, being some 53feet longer and 4 feet wider with an increased capacity for another 75 vehicles and 424 passengers.
|Condor Vitesse moored at Weymouth Terminal Pier 3|
It is debatable whether the new vessel will actually be able to use ferry terminal 3 at Weymouth as a result of the increased dimensions. In fact, in October of last year, I wrote in this Blog under the heading of "New Condor ships may be too big for Weymouth Pier three ", commenting on a conversation I had with some Condor employees on board the Condor Vitesse as we returned from Jersey .If this is, in fact the case, then the only logical option is for the new ferry to operate exclusively from Poole.
It also emerges that Condor have indicated that the new vessel will "replace two ships of the existing fleet". Clearly, the only candidates are the Express and the Vittesse which, if taken out of service, will effectively reduce the overall tourist capacity by some 100 vehicle and 320 passengers, and remove at least one sailing per day between the Channel Islands and the mainland. How this can be a "boost to the Jersey tourism industry", as claimed by the States tourism board and certain States members, is a complete mystery.
It seems that in the euphoria of the news of a potential "new condor ferry" operating on the Channel Islands route, there are a number of issues which require consideration and discussion, both in Jersey and on the mainland.
The prospect of a new ship, carrying vehicles and tourist passengers in operation by October of this year, may be somewhat optimistic.