Ferry firm to seek support

A COMPANY which provides summer ferry services between Jersey, Normandy and Sark is to seek government support following a downturn due to a combination of Brexit-related immigration law changes and the effects of the pandemic, it has been reported.

Victor Hugo Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29990403)
Victor Hugo Picture: ROB CURRIE. (29990403)

Manche-Iles Express, which is owned by La Manche Departmental Council in Normandy, say the annual cost of keeping the company going during the global health crisis has risen by €200,000 to €1.4 million.

Previously, French passengers visiting the Channel Islands were able to travel using their national ID cards. However, following recent Brexit-related immigration rule changes, only passports will be accepted – something which just 20% of French Manche-Iles passengers have.

The company, which is considering selling off one of its vessels, is also concerned that the strict Covid-19 measures put in place at Jersey’s borders will deter Normans from visiting.

Marc Lefèvre, speaking to La Presse de La Manche, said: ‘This situation leads us to reconsider our economic model. Obviously 2021 will not be a normal year. Apart from Brexit and this passport issue, the [Covid-19] sanitary measures will mean that we will have relatively few services this year.

‘Is having two boats still justified for this year? In the medium term a single boat could be enough and we are hoping to find an economic model that is acceptable. We have not decided anything yet.’

He added: ‘We need to discuss it and see what happens with the health situation. I have the will, if possible, to keep the links with the Channel Islands. They contribute to the relationships we have with our neighbours, but I am careful about the use of public funds.’

Mr Lefèvre added that he would be asking Jersey’s and Guernsey’s governments for financial support in running the service. But he said that when he had done so previously he had not had any success.

The Government of Jersey was approached for comment but the JEP had not received a response at the time of publication.

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