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Irish Sea-Manx Freighter Chartered In for Condor Ferries Channel Islands Service

18th October 2017
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Condor Ferries conventional ferry Commodore Clipper approaching St. Peter Port, Guernsey with the background of Herm, one of the more larger Channel Islands. Condor Ferries conventional ferry Commodore Clipper approaching St. Peter Port, Guernsey with the background of Herm, one of the more larger Channel Islands. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#ferrycharter - Condor Ferries only conventional tonnage ferry on UK-Channel Islands service, Commodore Clipper recently resumed service before the English half-term break having spent over a month in dry dock in Cornwall, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Whilst Commodore Clipper was away on planned maintenance at A&P Falmouth, passenger services were maintained by fastcraft Condor Liberation. As for freight commitments they were covered by the chartered Manx registered Arrow, a ro-ro freight-only ferry.

The stern-loading Douglas registered Arrow is itself on charter from Seatruck Ferries, that acts as a relief ferry and backup support vessel for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Their Ben-My-Chree (see Belfast and related Larne berthing trials stories) is a smaller version of Commodore Clipper.

The biennial dry-docking of Commodore Clipper included a £2.7m refit which was completed last week with resumption of scheduled overnight sailings from Guernsey (St. Peter Port) and Jersey (St. Helier) to Portsmouth with a daytime return.

The Arrow however currently remains serving the Channel Islands as Condor's freight-only ferry Commodore Goodwill entered dry dock last week for routine and remedial repair work.

As for the extensive work undertaken of the Commodore Clipper, this involved a major servicing of the ferry's port main engine and gearbox, ride control system, alternator and overhaul of the ship’s shaft seals. In addition life-saving equipment, monitoring and alarms systems were also repaired and upgraded.

Paul Luxon, Condor’s CEO, confirmed that the refit on 'Clipper' was part of a fleet-wide investment by the company to maintain lifeline services for the Islands.‘All of our ships require regular repairs and servicing for us to provide year-round freight and passenger operations and this is the order of £7.5 million annually. The work alone on Clipper, which is undertaken every other year, costs around £2.7 million. ‘

Mr Luxon added that passengers will also notice some improvements on board. ‘We have refurbished the lounge and restaurant and parts of the vessel will also be repainted. I am delighted that our recently launched Wi-Fi service will also be available on Clipper following installation of the necessary satellite equipment.’

Annually, Condor Ferries which asides UK routes also operates services to France, carries more than 1 million passengers and 200,000 passenger vehicles. The fleet carries 100,000 freight vehicles into the Channel Islands each year as well as exporting tonnes of local produce. As previously reported on Afloat, among such produce the 'Jersey' royal potatoes, see story.

Condor's second high-speed craft Condor Rapide in addition to the aforementioned freightferry Commodore Goodwill operates on the French service out of St. Malo, Brittany.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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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. 

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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