A FORMER Weymouth harbourmaster claims the port will be shut off to larger visiting ships if Condor Ferries takes over a new berth.

Commander Peter Tambling gave his expert view as discussions continue about the firm’s future operations.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council was landed with a bombshell when it was revealed that it would have to spend millions upgrading harbour facilities to accommodate a new, larger vessel which Condor intends to buy.

The vessel, a high-speed 102-metre long trimaran, can only be accommodated at berth No 1, which needs about £10million spent on it. If the council agrees to do it and has the finance, the work would take about a year and would see Condor leaving Weymouth again.

Only last year the council completed a £4million project to repair berth No 3.

Sensitive negotiations continue between the council and Condor with a view to finding a solution.

Mr Tambling says Condor is worth millions to the economy and should stay in Weymouth but he anticipates problems if it moved to No 1 berth.

This is an outer berth towards the Pleasure Pier usually reserved for visiting vessels such as the Waverley.

Dedicating the berth to Condor with a new linkspan in place would potentially block large vessels from mooring there or from negotiating their way further down as they wouldn’t be able to negotiate the curve of the harbour, Mr Tambling said.

“Weymouth would be closed to all shipping, except Condor,” said Mr Tambling.

He added that any new building works there could affect the structure of the Pleasure Pier which is in a poor state.

He also pointed out that as new piles will have to be driven in for the berth 1 upgrade, a concrete structure on the seabed put in as part of the berth 3 refurbishment would have to be removed.

The Dorset Echo has launched a petition calling on Condor Ferries to think again over its future operations and to maintain a cross-Channel ferry link from the resort.

Hundreds of people are adding their names to the petition, which can be signed online via dorsetecho.co.uk

Paper copies have also been left at local retailers selling the Dorset Echo.