CONDOR’S plans to buy an extra conventional ferry have been hampered because there are only three suitable vessels in the world which would fit in Jersey’s port – and none are for sale.
Earlier this year John Napton, the operator’s chief executive, said he hoped a passenger and freight ferry running overnight crossings from the UK would be in operation before the winter.
The vessel would complement the service provided by Commodore Clipper, which runs night-time crossings north.
But speaking to the JEP this week, he confirmed that although talks with the owners of three ships were ongoing, none were on the market.
‘We are still looking – that is the honest answer,’ he said.
‘It’s what we want and I believe it is what the islands want. But it’s not like buying a second-hand car. You don’t just go to a showroom and pick one out.
‘The limitations of Jersey’s port are such that there are only a certain number of options available.
‘I am in talks with the owners of the ships that would work for us and as soon as one is available then we will make a decision.
‘But realistically there are three in the whole world that would be suitable and would fit in Jersey’s port.’
Mr Napton added: ‘Every port is restricted by length, so I am not having a go at Jersey, but Jersey is the smallest one [served by Condor] so anything above 135 metres and we are struggling.
‘Most ropax [freight and passenger ferries] generally start at 145m to 150m and the average is about 180m, so that is the restriction.
‘But blasting out the sea bed [to extend the port] would cost millions and millions and millions and I understand the reticence to do that.’
Mr Napton confirmed that any such vessel would cost between £15 million and £20 million and, as reported earlier this year, the firm is still in discussions with Guernsey’s government about part-financing a ship.
Meanwhile, Condor is in the final stages of discussions with Jersey and Guernsey’s government over signing a joint operating agreement. The firm currently has an agreement with Jersey, but a memorandum of understanding with the Sarnians.
‘A tripartite agreement would create certainty,’ said Mr Napton.
‘Realistically what I hope for is a partnership, so rather than us saying that we will do A to B into the islands, we ask the islands what the overall strategy is. What are the fundamentals? What are we trying to achieve, what is the macroeconomics of the islands like? What do the islands need for transporting people and their cars and what is the tourism outlook?
‘If we know all that then we can start planning. It’s a more holistic view.
‘I hope this will be concluded within months.’