Condor Ferries signs 10-year operating licence.
Condor Ferries have signed a 10 year non-exclusive agreement with Jersey Ports, allowing the company to operate passenger, vehicle and freight services until 2024. It is also announced that Guernsey's government have agreed to extend a "memorandum of understanding" with Condor until 2018. These new arrangements made public yesterday, may come as a bit of a blow to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council as the way is now clear for Condor to proceed with their plan to bring into service their new 102 meter trimaran for the UK to Channel Islands routes.
|The "new" Condor Ferry: Austal’s 102-metre trimaran|
The reason for the concern in Weymouth, is the continuing controversy and discussions regarding the required improvements to Pier 1 at the Weymouth ferry terminal. The improvements to Pier 1 will require a £10million investment programme for the upgrade and expansion and may take up to three years to complete, just to provide a berth large enough to accommodate the new ferry. The improvements and repairs to Pier 3, which caused so much disruption before and during the 2012 Olympics, were late in completion, cost in excess of £4.5 million and resulted in Condor operating out of Poole for almost two years with the resulting loss of income for hotels, guest houses and tourism generally in Weymouth. It is now clearly evident, and was predicted by some commentators at the time, that even with the time and expenditure poured into the Pier 3 repairs, the new berth would only be able to accommodate the existing Condor Vitesse, Express or Rapide.
Condor's original plan was to have the new ferry in operation during October of this year. However, the delay in concluding the agreement with the Channel Islands indicates that the new ship will not be in operation until 2015. Which ever way it goes, there is no possibility of the new ferry operating out of Weymouth in the foreseeable future, and Poole will once again benefit from any extra tourist income that may be generated. Condor have already indicated that the introduction of a new larger ferry , will result in two of the existing fast ferries being taken out of service. This may come as another blow to Weymouth.
With the introduction of the new ship and two of the smaller ferries being taken out, the overall capacity for the transport of passengers and vehicles will be reduced. As the trend of tourism to Jersey remains in decline over recent years, this may not be a problem to the States of Jersey or Guernsey, but it is certainly the case that Weymouth will feel a difference.