A STRONGER supply chain from France would protect Jersey against unexpected shocks in the event the UK route fails, the Economic Development Minister has said.
Deputy Kirsten Morel reiterated his desire to see the Island develop better freight links with Europe, stating that Jersey was ‘not in a particularly resilient position’.
He added that southern sea links would be less susceptible to cancellations due to weather and that he hoped to see private firms invest in the route.
Speaking at a quarterly hearing of the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel, Deputy Morel said: ‘This is something I am trying to work on with the private sector – we are not about to open up Government of Jersey ferries. The success of this will depend on engagement from the private sector and if we can get that engagement, then I believe it can be successful.’
Earlier this month, Nostos Marine – which operated freight deliveries between the Island and Europe – confirmed that the business had been placed into receivership, having operated only six trips between St Malo and Jersey.
However, the minister said he believed that the company had ‘made some decisions which made it more likely that they were not going to succeed’ and that the firm going into receivership did not necessarily indicate that the route could not be successful. ‘I don’t think they can be used as an exemplar of the success of the route,’ he said.
Condor’s chief executive, John Napton, recently announced that its southern freight service had seen a 30% uplift in business since it was bolstered with additional sailings.
When asked by panel chair Deputy Moz Scott whether a freight link with France could jeopardise the success of the important UK route, Deputy Morel said: ‘I think that is less likely.
‘I say let’s leave it to the market to find out. This is about trying to protect Jersey from shocks. If there was a major strike in Portsmouth, Jersey would lose its food supply. That, to me, is a risk not worth taking.
‘I don’t for a second think that a supply route from the south will overtake the supply route from the north. I believe they would complement each other. We have businesses interested in bringing investment to our island – that is investment in our economy.’
During the hearing, Assistant Economic Development Minister Lucy Stephenson, who has responsibility for sport, said that she believed redeveloping Fort Regent should be done in small phases rather than the larger plans that have been unveiled in the past.
Ministers recently announced that they were pausing the scheme proposed by the previous government – with Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet branding the plan ‘unfeasible in the current economic climate’.
Deputy Stephenson said: ‘Presently Fort Regent is one of those local issues that has gone on for years and years. It has such a high price tag and is such a huge site with huge potential that we always go very big.
‘The question in my mind is do we need a Jersey-sized model? Should we be looking to complete that in parts?
‘Some people say we need vision – actually I would rather be part of a realistic government that can deliver on its aims.’
Deputy Morel added that one of the key issues concerning the Fort was the roof and work needed to be done to decide if it needed replacing.
‘There is a right way to do things, and that is starting with the actual fabric of the building,’ he said.