Chamber and Condor to meet over French links

WORK to bring more European produce to the Island is to pick up in the ‘coming months’, the Chamber of Commerce has said, as it plans meetings with Condor Ferries.

Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.
Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.

The ferry operator has said that improving its services to the continent ‘has been in its thinking for a while’, in particular since Brexit, which has placed increased pressure on supply chains due to added bureaucracy and border controls.

Meanwhile, Jersey Chamber of Commerce chief executive Murray Norton said the body had resumed efforts to develop stronger business ties with its French counterparts, which was started in 2019 but delayed by the pandemic.

He added that discussions with Condor about improving passenger and freight links would soon become part of that work.

In 2019, speculation grew that a French supermarket was on the verge of opening a store in the Island. However, the plans never came to fruition.

Mr Norton said: ‘In June 2019 we visited Rennes to meet with our French Chamber colleagues to explore various opportunities that we believe still exist.

‘We met with officials in the port of St Malo and toured Rennes St Jacques Airport to discuss both their passenger and freight operations. With the presence of key operators such as UPS, Fedex and Chronopost, Rennes stands as the largest express freight platform in western France.

‘While we have yet to begin conversations with Condor, who are members of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, we will be doing so in the coming months.’

A Condor Ferries spokesperson said that the company would be happy to look at developing expanded trade links with interested partners.

‘We are aware of the potential for improving trade links with the continent and this has been in our thinking for a while, particularly since the UK left the EU earlier this year.

‘Any expansion of services does take some time in planning, but as and when opportunities arise we are more than happy to explore these with relevant partners in both the public and private sectors,’ the spokesperson said.

Currently, Condor provides a weekly freight service to France.

Brian Murphy, president of the TransManche Development Group, which was established in 2019 to develop British and French trade links, said that it was ‘working on many different ways of developing better links between western France and the Channel Islands.’

Meanwhile, Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said that the government was keen to improve trade routes with the continent.

‘In the wake of Brexit and the pandemic, Jersey is keen to establish viable new markets and would welcome any move to improve sustainable transport links with Europe,’ he said.

Peter Hetherington, senior economic case officer at Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority, said that the organisation was reviewing the Island’s trade links.

He said: ‘Competition [from different supply routes] is to be welcomed because ultimately it benefits consumers. We are currently undertaking a market study into Jersey’s freight and logistics market and we would not want to comment further at this time until that independent study has been completed and any recommendations have been published.

‘The study will start in September/October 2021 and take approximately six months to complete.’

SandpiperCI, the Island’s largest retailer, declined to comment.

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