A NEW southern freight service operating in and out of France which could see a sizeable cargo ship arrive in the Island three times a week is being launched by a St-Malo-based company.
Nostos Marine’s new vessel, the 55-metre Norwegian-built Southern Liner, arrived in the Breton port at the end of last week and the firm is planning to use it to transport goods regularly to Jersey and Guernsey.
Manned by a crew of five, the boat can carry up to 800 tonnes of freight. Nostos have worked with Jersey-Post-owned Woodside Logistics and government-backed agency Jersey Business to develop the project.
Pierre Vennin, who co-founded Nostos Marine with Thibaut Eude, said that the plan was for the boat to deliver materials for the construction industry, such as sand and pre-fabricated building parts. The firm is also looking to transport agricultural products, such as fertiliser, and consumer goods, with wholesalers in Normandy and Brittany having expressed interest in exporting produce and products directly to Jersey.
A trial period for the route is planned to start within ‘days or weeks’, with a view to launching fully in the spring.
Mr Vennin said that he felt the changes brought about by Brexit had created an opportunity for a shorter supply between Jersey and France to be established.
He said: ‘Jersey businesses we have met have been increasingly concerned with the extended lead times that could arise on goods coming from the EU through the UK.
‘The UK supply chain is so disrupted and faces difficulties that are here to stay in the long term, regarding issues such as lower availability of drivers and customs clearance times.
‘These are issues that we believe could be smoothed out by using a shorter and less complicated trade route.’
He added that he felt Nostos’s decision to investigate setting up a new freight route had coincided with increased appetite in the Island for such an operation.
‘We were wondering why there wasn’t an active and flourishing trade route with the Channel Islands, and Jersey in particular, from St Malo because they’re so close,’ Mr Vennin added.
‘We investigated the way that freight and goods were coming into Jersey and Guernsey and noticed that there were people in Jersey that wanted this to happen.
‘We contacted Jersey Business and they were enthusiastic, so that prompted us to meet professionals in the transport and shipping sectors in Jersey.’
Nick Steel, head of industry development at Jersey Business, said that a new route would reduce dependency on the UK for freight delivery and could lower costs for businesses.
He said: ‘I think about 95% of our freight comes in via Portsmouth and there’s nothing wrong with that route, it serves us well, but do you want to have such a high dependency on one port?
‘We have already seen problems because we do bring things in from parts of Europe and they come through the UK. Recently things like fertiliser and building materials have become much more expensive and there could be a price advantage in bringing them in directly from France.
‘For Jersey is will be about having more than one dynamic for how we get goods into our Island. I think it is good to have that element of competition.’
He added that the shorter trade route would also have an environmental aspect because a lower level of carbon emissions would be produced with freight spending less time in transit.