Could French freight link reduce construction costs?

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A new freight service between France and Jersey could lower building costs for Islanders and resolve supply issues in the construction industry, according to a company leader.

Harvey Mitchell, managing director of Mitchell Construction, said supply-chain disruption caused by the pandemic and Brexit had resulted in raw materials costing more and that a shorter supply route with France would provide a much-needed boost to the industry.

Last week, St Malo-based Nostos Marine announced that it would soon be launching a trial route between the Island and the Breton port using its new vessel, the 55-metre Norwegian-built Southern Liner, which can carry up to 800 tonnes of cargo.

The company is planning to launch a three-trip-a-week service in the spring with the aim of delivering building materials, agricultural products and consumer goods. The development was welcomed by Mr Mitchell, as well as Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham who said that the extra route could also lead to French food and produce being brought to the Island.

Mr Mitchell said: ‘There have been cost increases recently and the industry has had to absorb them because we have to stick to the pricing we agreed initially.

‘Most of the products we procure come from Europe, whether it’s through merchants or directly.

‘So, it would be to the benefit of everyone, I think, to have a new direct freight boat coming from France. I wish the best of luck to them.’

Supply-chains problems have been compounded by the recent closure of the Simon Sand quarry, while doubts also remain over the extension of the La Gigoulande Quarry in St Peter due to opposition from politicians.

Senator Farnham said that the new freight boat was a ‘welcome addition’ to Jersey’s logistics infrastructure.

He added: ‘I don’t have too many details of the new service at this stage, but would welcome anything that can encourage increased trade and commerce between France and Jersey.

‘They’ve been working with Jersey Business, one of Economic Development’s arms-length organisations, which gives me confidence.

‘I wish the new venture well. It’s a welcome and, I hope, sustainable addition to the logistics that we run between Jersey and Europe.’

He said that he believed the new vessel could open opportunities for the importation of French food.

‘France has got some very popular food retail brands, many of which Islanders will be familiar with,’ he said. ‘I understand, for example, that the Co-op have started importing Carrefour products recently, which is very good and a progressive move. I hope that Islanders respond favourably. But our culture is generally British, so there might be difficulties in establishing European brands.’

The idea of opening a French supermarket in Jersey has been floated in the past. In 2006, then Chief Minister Frank Walker led a delegation to Normandy after which it was promised that proposals for a supermarket served by a daily freight service from France would be drawn up.

In 2019 the Economic Development Department were said to be considering the possibility of increasing freight from France as part of the Island’s preparations for Brexit.

The latest development comes amid rising tensions with France over fishing rights, which has prompted threats to impose tariffs on – our even cut off – supplies of electricity to the Island.

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