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Condor 'were happy before with fenders' - Harbourmaster defends facilities in wake of criticism

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FENDERS at Jersey Harbour were modified at Condor's request last year and there are no plans to change them again, the Harbourmaster has said after the operator claimed some were not appropriate for high-speed vessels.

In an internal report commissioned after the Liberation fast ferry was damaged when it struck a fender in Guernsey on its second commercial crossing, Condor said some of the bumper-like structures used in UK, Channel Islands and French ports were not suitable for fast ferries.

They claimed that the steel and rubber fenders, which protect vessels from the harbour wall when berthing, were too small and did not provide a big enough space to absorb the weight of a vessel.

But Harbourmaster Phil Buckley said that the structures, which were installed in the 1990s, were upgraded at Condor's request last year and that the operator 'accepted them as fit for purpose'.

In a statement issued yesterday, Capt Buckley said: 'In Jersey the fendering on the west berth was modified in 2014 at Condor's request to improve the performance of berthing operations.

'The fendering on the east pier was also reviewed for the introduction of the Liberation into service, and both Ports of Jersey and Condor Ferries accepted them as fit for purpose. This position remains valid.

'Planning meetings are still being run monthly to monitor Liberation's performance so that any adjustments to Jersey's infrastructure are made with proper recognition to their effectiveness and their value for money.

'There are no plans at this stage to replace the fenders.'

Meanwhile, the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency is to take up complaints

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it received about the Liberation with Condor Ferries and the authorities in the Bahamas, where the ship is registered.

In a statement, the agency said that when an international-registered ship is within UK waters, they have the powers as a port state authority to carry out inspections and intervene if any boat is deemed to be unsafe.

However, they added that they last boarded the Liberation in March and 'have no plans in the very near future' to board her again.

The statement added: 'The international code of safety for high-speed craft applies to the ship, and her permit to operate should ensure the suitability of the craft and operating conditions, including any limitations.

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'The Bahamas Flag State Administration is responsible for surveys and issuance of relevant certification and permits for the route.

'Under the High-Speed Craft Code, the agency can also consult the flag state with respect to operational conditions of a high-speed craft.

'We will therefore follow-up this matter with the flag state and the owners to address the concerns being raised.'

PEOPLE need to 'retrain their stomachs' for when they travel on the Condor Liberation because of the differences in design from the two former ferries which provided the cross-Channel service, Guernsey's Harbourmaster says.

Captain Chad Murray, a former Condor captain, said that passengers on the £50 million Liberation needed to be aware that the vessel handled differently from the Vitesse and the Express.

He made the comments as the Guernsey Commerce and Employment Minister, Deputy Kevin Stewart, said that Condor should be given a chance to rectify its problems with the Liberation and urged people to 'stop sticking the boot in'.

The ferry has been hit by a series of problems since it came into service, including mechanical issues which have caused delays and cancellations, and passengers have taken to review websites and social media to voice their concerns over the ship's safety.

In a statement read out at a Guernsey States meeting yesterday, Deputy Stewart, who is chairman of the External Transport Group, said: 'Condor has advised that the ride or motion on Liberation is different from that provided by the former Incat 86 vessels. It is understood that this different motion has contributed to passengers' safety concerns.

'With regard to the fundamental issue of safety, Condor has provided evidence to confirm the safety of the vessel, and this is supported by Guernsey's Harbourmaster in his statutory capacity.

'That said, the company openly accepts that the motion of the vessel is different from that experienced on its predecessors and acknowledges the concern this has caused for some passengers.

'Condor staff are continuing to learn about ways in which the vessel operates in Channel Islands and UK waters and, as was the case with the previous vessels, this experience will aid the delivery of improvement.'

The statement followed an emergency meeting held between the External Transport Group and Condor on Tuesday at which the company had confirmed that the Liberation 'fully met' industry standards.

Deputy Stewart said: 'The company did not invest £50 million in a new vessel and expect, or by neglect allow, the level of problems that have beset the Liberation.'

From Brian Villette.

SO it seems our government are prepared to accept Condor's robust contingency plans in case the Shed (Condor Liberation) packs up or can't go.

But hang on, they don't have one to accept. Our esteemed government are happy to accept there is no back-up vessel as a replacement for Liberation, fast or slow, and our wonderful ministers are prepared to accept that this vessel, which is not fit for purpose, is ruining what tourism industry we have.

Condor seem to think that later in the year when they have time they will find some rough weather and water which will allow them to have the vessel re-rated by MOT to allow it to operate in worse conditions than the Wavepiercers could. Are our ministers that naïve to believe this is going to happen?

It cannot operate in as bad conditions as the Wavepiercers now so what are they going to do to it to make it better? Nothing.

It just won't run and our pathetic ministers are going to let them get away with it. Condor were supposed to have a back-up plan before they got their licence.

Where is it? In September and October both slow boats will be in dry dock.

But don't worry Liberation will cover the schedule.

It can't cover its own schedule so folks don't expect food in September/October unless the Channel Islands Occupation Society can find the SS Vega and get Red Cross food parcels brought in.

From Pamela Clarke.

MY husband and I had our fourth experience of travelling on the Liberation recently, coming back home from Poole to Jersey.

It was a bit windy (around Force 6), but there had been assurances from Condor that the boat could handle more sea than the previous fast ferries.

The ferry was late (as usual), and once in the Channel doused the cars parked in the open area at the front with sea water throughout the trip.

The boat rolled and bounced, people were sick and fell about if they tried to move from their seats.

The trip from Guernsey towards Jersey was the worst, and until we had passed Corbière the wind was directly on our starboard side, and the boat seemed to nearly broach a couple of times as the waves and wind hit, frightening a lot of people, breaking crockery and bottles, and sending luggage flying.

There were mutterings and complaints from the crew, and one was overheard saying: 'This boat is not fit for purpose.'

Was the boat never sea-trialled?

Big tides and high winds around the Channel Islands always make sea crossings very variable, but on this occasion travelling on the Liberation was not a safe or happy experience.

It may be more comfortable than the previous ferries, but travelling in anything over a Force 6 could be really dangerous to passengers and crew.

When we got to Jersey (further delayed by the weather) we had to wait a further 30 minutes for a tug to help berth the boat – its superstructure seems to be very vulnerable to wind, and I assume the captain was trying not to have a repeat of the earlier Guernsey incident.

If the crew don't think the boat is fit for purpose, what are the passengers supposed to think? Personally, I was pleased to get home, albeit an hour and a half late.

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