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UK-Channel Islands Operator Commodore Shipping Celebrates 70 Years of Freight Service

13th December 2017
Afloat has researched into one of Commodore Shipping previous freight ro-ro vessels, the Pride of Portsmouth which entered service in 1990, a year that saw the long established Channel Islands operator switch from Lo-Lo operations to Ro-Ro. In 1991 the freight ferry was renamed Norman Commodore to reflect the ship's charter-owners. The 1972 built ferry launched as Anu for Finnish owners, had among its career prior to Commodore carried out several charters on the Irish Sea which included B+I Line between Dublin-Holyhead in 1981 when the ship was renamed Lady Catherine. Afloat has researched into one of Commodore Shipping previous freight ro-ro vessels, the Pride of Portsmouth which entered service in 1990, a year that saw the long established Channel Islands operator switch from Lo-Lo operations to Ro-Ro. In 1991 the freight ferry was renamed Norman Commodore to reflect the ship's charter-owners. The 1972 built ferry launched as Anu for Finnish owners, had among its career prior to Commodore carried out several charters on the Irish Sea which included B+I Line between Dublin-Holyhead in 1981 when the ship was renamed Lady Catherine. Photo: Condor Freight

#Condor70th - A UK-Channel Islands freight operator, Commodore Shipping reached a major milestone this year as the company celebrated seven decades of providing lifeline freight services from the mainland.

Now known as Condor Freight, Commodore first appeared on the horizon in 1947. Today the company moves 80% of all supplies taken to the Chanel Islands from the UK on services from Portsmouth International Port.

Commodore’s inaugural service began in September 1947 when its vessel, the ‘Red Commodore’ arrived in St Peter Port Harbour, in Guernsey on charter. She was soon joined by two other ships as the company expanded services to the UK and by 1950, had started to carry passengers between the Channel Islands. Changes embraced over the years include the move from cargo, to container and to the more recent roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) shipping plus the development of shore-side operations.

Condor Freight conveys supplies from the UK to the Channel Islands which includes temperature controlled products, heavy and out of gauge consignments (typically for construction projects), unaccompanied cars and passengers. Our 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 365 days per year, most of which are transported overnight.

Current 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 as previously reported on Afloat.ie. Together, these ships cover 3,000 nautical miles each week – the same distance as Portsmouth to New York.

Paul Luxon, Condor’s CEO, said the company’s longevity and success owed much to its willingness to adapt and embrace technology whilst remaining dedicated to the various needs of its customers. “By changing with the times, Commodore has been able to establish itself as a market leader in freight services which encompassed many other operations, including stevedoring, handling and distribution, all in response to the change in demand.”

“The development of ro-ro during the 1990s improved the speed and responsiveness of our services significantly so that these days, our teams can load and offload 80 x 13.6 metre trailers, each containing vital supplies for the Islands, in a fraction of the time it used to take. That’s the equivalent of more than 100 London buses.”

Mr Luxon confirmed that the dedication and loyalty of employees played a big part in the company’s development.

Kalvin Baugh, Ferry Port Manager of Portsmouth international Port, added: “'It's a mark of a good working relationship when milestones such as Commodore's 70th anniversary just seem to come along, so I am delighted we continue to forge an excellent partnership with Paul Luxon and his team and congratulate them on this great achievement.”

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. 

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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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