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Channel Islands Operator Condor Ferries Acquire 'Austal' State of the Art Fast-Ferry

20th August 2014
Channel Islands Operator Condor Ferries Acquire 'Austal' State of the Art Fast-Ferry

#FastFerryPurchase – Channel Islands ferry operator, Condor Ferries which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has today announced acquisition of an Austal 102m state of the art 1,100 passenger / 250 car fast-ferry trimaran to enter service in Spring 2015, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Condor Ferries purchase of the Australian built fast-ferry which was built speculatively by Austal, is to secure the future of high-speed services between the UK and Channel Islands.

Austal based in Hendersen (Perth), Western Australia, also completed Irish Ferries Dublin-Holyhead fast-ferry, Jonathan Swift back in 1999.

Condor's new 35 knot MTU powered fast-ferry is to run services between the mainland Dorset port of Poole and the islands and compliments services also from Weymouth served by a pair of 86m fast-ferry craft built by rivals, InCAT based in Hobart, Tasmania.

James Fulford, CEO of Condor Ferries commented "I am delighted to announce that we are now proud owners of the Austal 102. This represents £50m of investment in our Islands and it will enable us to improve reliability, increase capacity, and give our guests a much greater level of comfort".

The good news follows a spate of negative publicity for the operator during the busy high-season. Last month their ro-pax ferry Commodore Clipper had an incident (making contact with the seabed) off Guernsey and which required the 500 passenger vessel to dry-dock at A&P Falmouth.

Progress to repair damage to the 14,000 tonnes ferry Commodore Clipper have been better than expected as work is now completed and she is to return to service earlier than scheduled this weekend on Portsmouth routes to St. Peter Port, Guernsey and St. Helier on Jersey.

During the absence of Commodore Clipper, the only conventional ferry serving the islands, Condor were forced to charter in a pair of vessels, albeit freight-only vessels, MN Toucan and Arrow to compliment their fast-ferry operations serving to and from Poole and Weymouth.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Arrow, which too is on charter from Seatruck Ferries to the Isle of Man Steam Packet, had the misfortune of also getting into difficulties arising from a fault of the system controlling one of her propellers when sailing to Guernsey.  Disruption to the Arrow was resolved within 24 hours of the fault occuring having undergone repairs carried out in Portsmouth.

Guernsey headquartered Condor Ferries also run a third InCAT built 86m ferry craft that links the islands to St. Malo, France. The Breton port is also where their ro-ro freight-ferry, Commodore Goodwill provides another lifeline bringing goods to and from the islands and also connecting the UK.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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