CONDOR Ferries’ future in Weymouth remains uncertain after the company signed a new Channel Islands’ operating licence, paving the way for it to introduce a new super-ferry to replace its ageing vessels.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council does not have the money to make berth improvements to accommodate the larger and faster ferry, which means Condor could switch sailings to Poole or another port next year.
The Austal H270, a 102-metre trimaran capable of taking 245 cars and up to 1,165 passengers, is set to enter service next Easter.
The company will operate it as a single ferry operation on cross-Channel sailings, replacing Condor Vitesse and Condor Express which currently sail from Weymouth and Poole.
The signing of a 10-year operating agreement allowing Condor Ferries to continue to offer a passenger and freight link service between the UK, Channel Islands and France was announced by the Port of Jersey.
The agreement provides ‘future stability on the vital sea route’ and also enables Condor to make ‘significant investment’ into ferry services with the purchase of the £50m Austal.
Condor wants to continue sailing from Weymouth but says the only suitable dock for the Austal is berth 1 near the Stone Pier. Upgrading it will cost the council £10m.
The borough council spent £4m repairing another berth in 2012-13 and can’t afford further works.
Council chiefs are to meet Condor chief executive James Fulford later this week for an update.
Management committee chairman Cllr Mike Byatt said: “The council’s position hasn’t changed in terms of the finances to do significant works to the harbour walls what Condor is suggesting.
“We will wait to see what the outcome is of the discussions we have with Condor.
“I’m hoping it will provide some clarity about their position.
“We need to be clear what the implications are for Weymouth and Portland and make the best possible decisions in the interests of the borough. I’m not making any presumptions about the future.”
James Fulford of Condor has previously said the firm has not ruled out making a contribution to berth upgrade works in Weymouth.
He said: “We need to invest for the future to keep doing what we do, and we will do that from the appropriate port that provides modern facilities that make it safe to operate. We would love that to be Weymouth and hope that will be the case.”
Barfleur out of service for £10m modification
POOLE’s Barfleur ferry will be taken out of service for two months next spring for an expensive modification.
The Brittany Ferries craft which is continuing its year round operation from the port to Cherbourg is having a £10million scrubber fitted.
Work will be carried out on the Barfleur at St Nazaire from mid-March to mid-May and there will be a gap between March 16 and April 29 when the ferry will not be running.
However the company is slotting in its high-speed vessel, Normandie Express from April 30 to May 14, after which Barfleur returns to resume its daily service.
“Unfortunately we cannot provide the high-speed service earlier for operational reasons, but it will provide a link during the busy early May Bank Holiday period,” said Stephen Tuckwell, communications director.
The crossing time in the fast ferry is two-and-three-quarters hours compared with four-and-a-half hours for the conventional ferry.
The equipment that will be fitted to the 22-year-old Barfleur removes sulphur dioxide from the exhaust, a poisonous gas which contributes towards acid rain. This is in order to comply with new environmental regulations coming in next year.
EU legislation means vessels must use fuels with a sulphur content of not more than 0.10 per cent in the North Sea including the English Channel and exhaust cleaning systems are a way of ensuring this.