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Freight costs closed us, say firm after 51 years’ trading

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A FAMILY-RUN haulage business which has operated for 51 years has closed, claiming that Condor’s pricing structure for shipping goods makes it impossible for small firms to compete.

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Bowman Haulage ceased trading this week after losing its largest client. Two of its refrigeration trucks were due to be sold in an auction at Glencoe on Wednesday.

In a statement released to customers, the company said that it was with ‘much regret and extreme sadness’ that they would no longer be trading and that a liquidator for the company was ‘in the process of being appointed’.

It added that the ‘disproportionate costs’ of shipping freight offered to different companies by Condor, the Island’s sole ferry service, were the reason that they could no longer compete.

The only haulage companies which now operate in Jersey are Ferryspeed, the largest operator, CI Lines and Woodside Farms.

Speaking to the JEP, Damian Bowyer, Bowman Haulage’s managing director, said that larger companies were offered much better rates for shipping freight and, with just three haulage firms now operating, a monopoly could soon develop in the Island.

‘I am concerned that we are going to end up with just one haulage company left in Jersey, which would not be good for the consumer,’ he said. ‘The price bands that Condor offer mean that larger companies get better rates because they ship more freight. These bands should not be giving a disproportionate advantage to one company.

‘We were having to pay £15 more per pallet, so there was no way that we could compete.’

He added that he felt investigations carried out into the market by the competition watchdog, the findings of which were published last year, had not examined this issue.

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‘In the Isle of Wight they also have one ferry company but they have one price for all haulage companies.’ he said.

‘What CICRA [the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities] did is they looked at the freight market from the consumer’s point of view but they didn’t look into the prices that the haulage companies were being offered.

‘The more competition there is the lower prices will be for consumers – but how can there be competition when there’s such a disparity in pricing? I hope that they see sense and look at this again to create a level playing field.

‘It’s perhaps a shame that a family-run company that has been going for 51 years has had to go out of business before anyone is going to take notice of this.’

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Mr Bowyer said he believed his customers would miss the ‘personal’ service offered by his company.

Paul Luxon, Condor Ferries’ chief executive, expressed sympathy for Bowman’s demise but said that he was disappointed with Mr Bowyer’s comments about their pricing structure.

‘We were saddened to hear the news of Bowman Haulage as Condor has been a supplier to the company for many years. It was equally disappointing for us to read Mr Bowyer’s comments as we have been working to help Bowman’s through this difficult period,’ he said.

‘Condor has operated a freight tariff since its ro-ro [roll-on, roll-off] ships entered service in 1996. The tariff card is aligned with the operating agreement the company signed with the Harbour Master of Jersey in 2014.’

A spokesman for Condor said that their shipping rates were not made publicly available but were disclosed to CICRA, the Ferry Services Steering Group and their freight customers.

Ferryspeed, CICRA and the Economic Development Minister were all contacted for comment.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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