Senior States' members are confident that Condor Ferries' schedule of sailings next year will be "significantly better" for Guernsey.
Deputy Neil Inder, the President of the Committee for Economic Development, told the States recently that he was concerned about passenger services in 2022 and would meet the ferry company’s bosses to press for improvements.
Members of the States’ senior committee, Policy & Resources, said yesterday that they understood there would be improvements to the service and suggested that Deputy Inder's discussions with Condor's Chief Executive, John Napton, had proved successful.
"Having spoken to members of Economic Development, they have seen the new schedules, and they have confirmed that they are significantly better than what we have seen this year, which is a real bonus for the public," said the Policy & Resources Committee's treasury lead, Deputy Mark Helyar.
His President, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, said: "There have been concerns about scheduling this year. We all know that. Anybody who lives in these islands knows that. I know that very recently indeed Deputy Inder has been taking that up with the Chief Executive of Condor, so that hopefully for 2023 the problems of 2022 are not revisited."
Less than 24 hours earlier, Condor told Express that it would release its next schedule of sailings within two weeks and that the schedule would cover the period 4 January to 31 October 2023.
Pictured: John Napton, Condor's Chief Executive.
Deputy Ferbrache and three of the other four members of his Committee - Deputies Helyar, Heidi Soulsby and David Mahoney - appeared yesterday at a public hearing held by the Scrutiny Management Committee to enquire into progress made on the States' work plan.
In January, Deputy Ferbrache told a previous scrutiny hearing that there was "a better than even chance" of the States buying the island a new passenger ferry. Last month, he told the States' Assembly that the original proposed deal was off but that he was not giving up all hope of Condor adding another vessel to its Guernsey fleet.
Yesterday, the President of the Scrutiny Management Committee, Deputy Yvonne Burford, asked: "Are your plans still afloat?"
In reply, Deputy Ferbrache said: "Condor are in discussions of their own with a third party about both buying a vessel and providing their own finance.
"I said many times ago…that I thought very shortly thereafter that we would have a boat afloat. That turned out not to be possible. That information was given to me in good faith. As has been said to me, it's not like buying a second-hand car where there are plenty. There are very few of the vessels that are needed to service the Bailiwick waters. They've got to be of a particular type, a particular length, etc., and they don’t come along very often."
Deputy Ferbrache did not rule out the States' investment fund supporting Condor with some funding "on a commercial basis", but said "obviously, in an ideal world, the more that a provider can provide themselves the better".
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache has dropped the idea of the States purchasing a ferry for the island but remains hopeful that Condor will conclude its own deal to improve resilience on its Guernsey routes.
The Scrutiny Management Committee also asked about the island's long-term relationship with Condor.
In Jersey, the company has a formal operating agreement, but Guernsey's relationship with Condor is through an informal memorandum of understanding. The two islands have previously negotiated with Condor together, including over a 10-year deal struck in 2014 which has now entered a 'wind-down' phase. A replacement deal is yet to be agreed.
"Jersey went into purdah for some time because they were coming up to an election. It went into purdah rather early, I thought, but that was their business, not ours: they do it their way," said Deputy Ferbrache.
"They didn’t negotiate with us over a period of time because they had other considerations. But we’ve had recent meetings with our Jersey colleagues and Deputy Inder has been in discussions with the Chief Executive of Condor.
"We still haven't got a tripartite agreement, which is what we would like between Guernsey, Jersey and Condor. It’s being negotiated. There comes a time when you’ve got to say enough is enough. We haven’t quite reached that point yet.
"I’m not going to guarantee because I can’t guarantee the actions of a third party [but] I believe we will reach an agreement that will be satisfactory to the Bailiwick of Guernsey."
Pictured (top): Deputy Neil Inder, President of the Committee for Economic Development.
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