Channel Islands ferry company, Condor Ferries will be using the Brittany Ferries’ fast craft, NORMANDIE EXPRESS this summer, it has been announced.
Re-named CONDOR VOYAGER, it is understood that the craft will primarily take the place of the smaller CONDOR RAPIDE. As a result, she is likely to be mainly used on France – Guernsey and Jersey crossings.
In recent years, NORMANDIE EXPRESS has operated a seasonal Portsmouth – Cherbourg service for Brittany Ferries. However, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the service didn’t operate in 2020 and hadn’t yet been timetabled for this year either. The vessel had been laid up at Le Havre since September 2019 until moving to Cherbourg for overhaul at the end of March.
The craft is expected to complete drydock shortly. Following this, berthing trials will be carried out at St. Peter Port, Guernsey and St. Helier, Jersey. Assuming everything goes to plan and following crew familiarisation, CONDOR VOYAGER will properly join the Condor Ferries fleet. Fast craft sailings are currently due to resume on 21 May, having been suspended for many months due to Covid-19 restrictions.
First sign of cooperation
The move can be seen as the first visible illustration of Brittany Ferries being a minority shareholder in Condor Ferries. Last year, Brittany Ferries, in consortium with the Columbia Threadneedle European Sustainable Infrastructure Fund (ESIF), acquired Condor Ferries from Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA). The purchase was completed in March 2020. According, to Brittany Ferries 2020 Rapport d’activité, the French ferry company owns 28.94% of “Condor TopCo Ltd”.
Elwyn Dop, Condor’s Operations Director, said the initiative is a great example of how the two
companies are cooperating and looked forward to seeing the vessel in local waters;
“The ship is proven cross Channel and a larger version of Condor Rapide, so we feel she is
suited to providing services to the Islands and will offer a greater car and passenger capacity.
These sea and berthing trials are also important for Brittany Ferries’ and our own teams working
Condor To Operate Brittany Ferries sailings
Elwyn Dop added that Condor Ferries will also be operating services for Brittany Ferries;
“Part of the agreement is for Condor to provide a number of peak summer services for Brittany Ferries between the UK and France. We are excited that our new owners share the same vision for developing ferry services and taking on this ship is one example of how our partnership and sharing of expertise can benefit the Islands.”
With CONDOR LIBERATION’s Poole – Guernsey and Jersey sailings often only occupying the craft for 10 hours per day, it seems possible that this craft may offer additional Poole – Cherbourg sailings on behalf of Brittany Ferries.
Such sailings will very much be ‘Back to The Future’. From 2001 until 2012, Condor Ferries operated Poole – Cherbourg high-speed sailings on behalf of Brittany Ferries.
Back then, the 86-metre Incat CONDOR VITESSE operated the service, occasionally substituted by sister vessel CONDOR EXPRESS. Both craft are today with Seajets of Greece as CHAMPION JET 1 and CHAMPION JET 2. If Condor Ferries was to decide to dispose of CONDOR RAPIDE, it is very possible, Seajets could purchase her to re-join her sisters.
Condor Voyager overview
In 2005 the craft was chartered to Brittany Ferries for a new Portsmouth – Cherbourg fastcraft service. Proving a success with an excellent reliability record, the French ferry company purchased the vessel in 2007. Although the season has been reduced in length in recent years, the NORMANDIE EXPRESS has remained a constant on the same route until Covid hit.