CONDOR Ferries has given no guarantees whether it will continue sailing from Weymouth.
Speaking for the first time since it emerged the firm’s future in the resort was uncertain due to new infrastructure demands, Condor Ferries’ boss James Fulford stayed tight-lipped about the future.
It comes as it is revealed that the firm would have to stay away for two years rather than one if Weymouth and Portland Borough Council undertook £10m worth of works to upgrade berth 1.
This is because there would have to be a harbour revision order which could end up going to a public inquiry.
The Dorset Echo, which has launched a campaign calling on the firm to stay in Weymouth, put a number of questions to the company about its plans for cross-Channel operations and whether it could confirm its commitment to the town.
Mr Fulford, chief executive of Condor Ferries, said the firm valued its relationship with Weymouth, but avoided questions about whether sailings would continue from the resort if it purchased a new super ferry.
It has emerged the council may have to fork out an estimated £10m to accommodate the larger ship which Condor is thinking of buying. The high speed trimaran could only dock at berth 1, which will need a substantial upgrade.
Condor has rejected using berth 3, which the council spent more than £4m on refurbishing last year.
The resort suffered a major blow when the company switched sailings to Poole for 17 months while it was repaired.
Condor said it was unable to respond to a series of questions put by the Dorset Echo.
But chief executive Mr Fulford said: “Condor Ferries is committed to investing in a safe and efficient fleet which will enable us to provide a full service of sailings, keeping the Channel Islands connected and supplied.
“One of the options we are currently considering is investing in a new ship. However, this investment relies upon us achieving the certainty of a new licence to operate to the islands.
“Introducing any new ship involves a range of legislative and infrastructure considerations and, as you would expect, we are working closely with all the interested parties, including Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, other harbour authorities and the States of Jersey and Guernsey.”
There has been a ferry link between Weymouth and the Channel Islands for more than 200 years.
Condor, which has been providing the service for 20 years, favours Weymouth because of its easy access to the sea and because it is the closest English mainland port to the Channel Islands.
Mr Fulford added: “We are a long-standing customer of Weymouth Harbour, having operated from there for many years, and value our close relationship with the town.”
Could go to inquiry
ENVIRONMENT and sustainability spokesman for the borough council Ian Roebuck said trying to get anything definitive from Condor Ferries was proving difficult.
Cllr Roebuck said negotiations between the council and Condor were continuing.
He added there is likely to be a gap of two years rather than one if it was agreed to upgrade berth 1.
He added: “If Condor Ferries took over berth 1 there would be a significant effect on existing harbour users.
“There would have to be a harbour revision order and that process takes about a year. It may end up going to a public inquiry. So you would have to allow a year for the work to be done and another year for the revision order.”
Sign the petition calling on Condor to stay in Weymouth at dorsetecho.co.uk or at local retailers selling the Dorset Echo.