New Channel Islands cargo ship trialled amid 'challenging' time for Condor Ferries

  • The Finlandia Seaways will travel to St Peter Port after berthing in St Helier.

A 163-metre-long freight vessel docked in Jersey on Saturday 16 December as part of "contingency plans" to safeguard the supply chain.

Both the governments in Guernsey and Jersey have commissioned the berthing trials of the DFDS ship, called the Finlandia Seaways, which they say are designed to safeguard against "a number of possible risks of which supply links naturally form a key part".

It comes after concerns about the commercial viability of the island's existing freight links had been raised as Condor Ferries, the current operator, announced plans to increase freight charges by nearly 19% from January 2024.

Following the rise, an investigation by ITV News has revealed that Condor Ferries took out a series of loans - including a revolving credit facility in August 2017.

These expired in September 2023 and needed refinancing - similar to a household mortgage.

The intervening years have seen costs across the board rise, with the Bank of England base rate soaring from 0.5% to 5.25%.

The Condor Voyager has been chartered from Brittany Ferries until at least 26 May 2024

In the company's most recent accounts, published in January 2023, Condor executives said they were "confident they will be able to refinance" the company's loans.

However, they noted: "The ability to successfully refinance the facilities involves factors outside the direct control of the business, such as future economic uncertainty."

As part of the company's 2022 accounts, financial auditors from PwC warned the loans left Condor facing "a material uncertainty" which "cast significant doubt about the group's and the company's ability to continue" trading in the future.

Companies House submissions reveal Condor was successful in securing the required refinancing from NatWest in September 2023 - but as part of the deal, a new charge was created against the company which would allow the bank to seize assets should the company fail to keep up repayments.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the company's CEO, John Napton, said: "Condor has been working with its stakeholders to overcome a temporary but challenging time.

"We are confident that this is very near to being resolved and will have no impact on our services now or in the long term."

Condor Ferries' next company accounts are expected to be published in early 2024.

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