Competition on Island ferry routes ‘would not last long’


ISLANDERS still hoping for a return to the days of ferry operators battling side-by-side for business on local routes – and the competitive prices it could create – shouldn’t hold their breath…

Condor’s interim chief executive has said that, while such a scenario was not impossible, it “would not last long”.

Christophe Mathieu, who is also the chief executive of Brittany Ferries, said he had “every confidence” that Condor would win the now-published tender for the future of Jersey and Guernsey’s passenger and freight ferry services.

Christophe Mathieu Picture: ROB CURRIE. (38120582)

The incumbent operator will be hoping to beat Danish shipping company DFDS, which recently held an open meeting in the Island to gather feedback from a number of local businesses and other stakeholders.

Commenting on whether there was a possible scenario in which both firms could compete alongside each other, Mr Mathieu said: “It’s tricky because the market is such that, at the end of the day, you need volumes to break even in this business – so I don’t think it would last long. Sure, there could be a moment but one of the two would give up, or the States would have to organise it in a different way and subsidise.

“But I don’t think there is enough [volume] for that to be a lasting proposition.”

Mr Mathieu’s comments come shortly after the launch of the formal tender process, with both islands now inviting bids from applicants “with the necessary experience and capability” until 8 July.

He described the process as “a bit like the final of the World Cup”, adding that: “Providing the referee is fair, I have every confidence [we will win] because we have the ships, we have the knowledge and we have the people. I am confident, not arrogant, in what Brittany Ferries will bring to that because this is a new era.”

Christophe Mathieu Picture: James Jeune (38106788)

He explained: “Going forward, Brittany Ferries will be far more involved. It doesn’t mean that Condor was not doing a good job, it means that we can do a better job and we can also develop more synergies that will be to the benefit of the islands.”

Mr Mathieu also said the ferry operator wanted to start a “discussion” with harbour authorities over tug coverage, that would enable it to run scheduled services using Brittany Ferries ships.

He revealed that larger vessels such as Barfleur – a 157-metre passenger ferry – could be used as early as this winter if the necessary tug support was agreed.

Barfleur is no stranger to the Island, having successfully completed a berthing trial in Elizabeth Harbour at the end of March.

Brittany Ferries ship Barfleur Picture: JON GUEGAN. (38120719)

At the time, Mr Mathieu suggested that the vessel could be used to “step in” when needed, but that the local port facilities did “not allow” for a permanent service.

However, he yesterday told the JEP that the operator was “seriously studying options for next winter” regarding the potential use of Brittany Ferries’ ships.

He continued: “But that’s where the tug comes in, be it Barfleur or others – those [ferries] around 140 or 150 metres – because when the weather and the wind blows there is a limit when the captains don’t feel comfortable.

“That’s where we need to talk to the harbour authorities because it’s a big ask for us to acquire a tug, but there is a discussion to be had.”

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