As Freight Director of Condor Ferries, Steve Champion-Smith manages sea connectivity for the essential freight services linking the Channel Islands, UK and France.
He's explained for Express what challenges Condor faces, presented by the current pandemic and how extra precautions are in place to protect the supply chain.
Pictured: Very little can stop the Commodore Clipper from sailing, not even corona virus, so far.
We currently live in a world of extraordinary change.
Each week, new government guidance is published and instructions introduced that alter the way we live, work, shop and travel. Alongside this comes a new vernacular – self-isolation, lockdown, contact screening and community seeding.
There is one constant amongst all of this – the absolute commitment of Condor Ferries and its logistics partners to protect the daily deliveries of food, ambient, medical products and all other cargo types on which the Channel Islands depend.
We have provided freight for the Islands since 1947 and today convey 95% of all supplies from the UK. These include temperature-controlled products, animal feed and associated horticultural products for farmers and an array of goods for all local businesses. About 35% of the freight is bound for Guernsey, while the rest goes to Jersey.
Services are maintained on a ‘just in time’ basis as extensive warehousing no longer exists on either Island. This requires close cooperation and liaison with longstanding logistics distributors and other clients to ensure supplies 24/7 and 364 days per year, most of which are transported overnight.
Services from Portsmouth to Guernsey, Jersey and St Malo are sustained by the freight-only Commodore Goodwill and the mixed passenger and freight ship Commodore Clipper which, together, cover 3,000 nautical miles each week – the same distance as Guernsey to New York.
The advent of the corona virus epidemic has required extra precautions to be put in place.
We have switched to a freight-only service on Clipper from Portsmouth from today for four weeks. To minimise the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak and ensure continuity of the supply chain to the Islands. Passengers booked will be switched to Poole sailings. #Lifelineservice pic.twitter.com/9nNcZuKLQa— Condor Ferries (@Condor_Ferries) March 16, 2020
Two weeks’ ago, our entire operation was switched to unaccompanied freight only, a prudent measure to ensure the system runs smoothly. It is crucial that all the right steps are taken and Condor was in direct dialogue with the States of Guernsey and States of Jersey on this.
The company stepped up procedures and adopts a sterile working environment, which involves no face-to-face interaction with customers in each location and enhanced ship to shore practices. In the past, the load master would meet with the chief officer to discuss the ship’s loading, whereas plans are now shared digitally and discussed over the radio. As experienced across the Islands, some employees work from home and for those deployed on separate shifts, there is no contact between shifts.
Many local businesses are also closed, so we are already seeing a reduction in the total amount of freight which means there is sufficient capacity to deliver food and all other essential supplies.
Our staff are classed as essential workers and all realise the importance of their role in the coming weeks and months.
We are in a position of responsibility and take that very seriously.