Passenger numbers plummeted by 96% in 2020 as lockdowns, tough border controls and isolation requirements made travel to and from the UK, Guernsey and France either impossible or extremely difficult.
It has been reported that the operator, which was last year bought by a consortium including global asset management group Columbia Threadneedle Investments and cross-Channel ferry operator Brittany Ferries, suffered a £40 million loss.
Paul Luxon, Condor’s chief executive, said that the firm accepted it could do nothing to increase passenger numbers in the face of ongoing travel restrictions, and that maintaining the freight supply chain was its top priority. And he said he was confident the company would be able to move quickly to get passengers moving when ‘green shoots’ start to appear in the pandemic.
‘At Condor we’re conscious of our responsibilities for the sea connectivity ferry services, so that’s what we’ve tasked ourselves with since 26 March, when we sat down to create our crisis management plan, and we continue to do so,’ he told the media.
Speaking about Guernsey States’ recent decision to ban non-essential travel, he added: ‘I think it would be impossible to adversely impact our passenger numbers because we operated at something like a 96%-plus reduction in 2020 versus the normal year.
‘And since December, when France went into lockdown and the UK went into lockdown, and then the significantly deteriorating situation over Christmas and the New Year and the beginning of this month, frankly the appetite of people to travel – those for whom it was a discretionary choice – has become less because of all the inherent risks and difficulties.
‘We’ve not been concentrating too much on worrying about the current passenger numbers because we realise it’s simply impossible. Our plan is to be ready with a recovery to bring all of the passengers back as soon as the public health restrictions lift.
‘So we’ve got a recovery plan for when those green shoots start appearing, but right now it’s a case of keeping the ships safe, keeping the crew safe, keeping passengers and freight clients safe, and trying to make sure we protect that vital supply line six days a week for both ships to bring the islands what they need.
‘Yes, it’s had a massive impact on Condor operationally and financially, but we continue to work hard to manage that situation and we will sustain ourselves through it and we will survive it and look forward to getting back to some sort of normality once the vaccination programme starts biting in positively.’
Although Condor received payroll funding from Jersey and Guernsey governments for a small number of staff – mainly shore-side employees in the harbour offices – it was forced to make other workers redundant as it reduced operations.
Meanwhile, three crew members on the Commodore Goodwill freight ship who tested positive for Covid-19 last week are said to be recovering well – and safety protocols across Condor’s fleet have been stepped up.
Over the weekend, the entire crew of the freight ship was rotated as an added precaution.
A fourth person, who was showing cold symptoms and was suspected of having coronavirus, gave a negative test result.
Both the Goodwill and the Commodore Clipper are now freight-only and there are rigid controls on board so that crew members do not come into close contact with the local stevedores. Passengers who were due to travel on the Clipper have been offered alternative fast-ferry sailings.