PLAN YOUR TRIP
We are keen to communicate with you regularly as we all adapt to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic crisis which continues to play havoc with our intended original sailing schedule. Your bookings made earlier this year with Condor for travel through the Spring, Summer and Autumn seasons are important to us and we want to keep you as well informed as we can about our hopeful revised schedule options. We have always kept one eye on the future and are prepared to sail once restrictions are lifted.
To provide some clarity, I would like to update you on where we have got to today. Back in March when the pandemic struck, we were forced to cancel all imminent passenger sailings, once we had completed a series of repatriation rotations to assist people needing to get back to the Islands, to the UK or to Europe via St. Malo. Since then and until now we have not been able to operate our normal scheduled passenger services. Even Clipper, our RoPax ship, has been used to protect the Freight lifeline supply chain service and keeping the Islands supplied with all essential goods, especially food, post and medicines.
Throughout this period we have been working behind the scenes on revised and reduced schedule options, knowing that many of our booked passengers would want certainty as soon as possible on their intended holiday and general travel plans. However, each of the four jurisdictions we operate from and to - Jersey, Guernsey, France, UK - has had different strategies in place for managing the crisis, the lockdown and their individual unlocking framework. We have needed to understand and respect those restrictions linked to travel which have been put in place to protect the public health of us all and try to develop our workaround plans to resume accordingly.
France closed its borders until June 15th and as yet there is no clarity about what they may announce next from June 16th onwards regarding travel between St. Malo and the Channel Islands or the quarantine regulations that will apply.
The UK has announced recently that inbound travel is permitted but with a 14 day quarantine isolation requirement, however, an exemption is in place for arrivals from the CI’s, and of course the UK continues to see high levels of infection, new cases and loss of life. Purpose of travel around the country is also closely defined and traceability is key.
Guernsey has deployed a six phase exit from lockdown and it is possible the move to Phase 6 is not likely until September, at which point all travel (so not requiring a quarantine period of 14 days when arriving in Guernsey) would be opened up. Last weekend, Phase 4 was reached which included non-essential travel, albeit with a strict 14 day quarantine for all arrivals whether from the UK or returning residents, and the advice is still to travel only if really essential, with a clear concern of an unregulated significant inbound number of visitors entering the Island. The pandemic has been eliminated locally with no live cases.
Jersey has a four level safe exit strategy which the Government of Jersey is implementing and the pandemic has been successfully suppressed with very few remaining live cases. The balance between the understandable critical importance of public health protection and the ability to see economic commerce, including from the tourism and hospitality sectors returning, is currently being assessed. Presently work continues around Covid-19 pilot testing at Jersey Airport, which is being evaluated by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell and the Council of Ministers before any decision is possible on when any open travel can recommence.
Our governments and public health professionals have been working incredibly hard for the last two months on the well-being and welfare of all Channel Islanders, to protect lives, our health, and maintain economic activity as best as possible.
Condor Ferries has continued to operate the essential lifeline freight service twice-daily six days a week, (apart from the early week lowest utilisation sailing just for now whilst freight volumes have fallen by -34%) keeping the CI’s supplied and well stocked with everything needed as normal. We are ready to restart ferry passenger services as soon as the Islands’ authorities, France and the UK confirm it is safe to do so and wish us to.
We announced late last month that we had developed a plan for a revised and reduced schedule which could be ready for implementing from the 19th June onwards, subject to government confirmation this was feasible and safe to do so.
Guernsey’s position of the removal of a 14 day quarantine on-Island for non-essential travel until Phase 6, possibly in September, or earlier if things went well with the management of the pandemic, meant that we would need to wait further news before setting any timelines for Guernsey sea connectivity passenger services.
The Government of Jersey’s travel policy is under regular review in line with their Island’s Safe Exit strategy. Most recently, the Government of Jersey has launched a trial Covid-19 border testing programme for passengers arriving at Jersey Airport on ‘lifeline’ flights. The trial involves a combination of swab (PCR) and antibody (serology) tests, as advised by Jersey’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC). This does not alter existing restrictions on travel to and from Jersey. However, the results of the trial will be carefully assessed by the Government of Jersey as part of the Safe Exit strategy, which outlines a gradual approach to increased travel to and from the Island in a manner that ensures public safety.
Following the Government of Jersey's helpful clarification our hopeful plan for the restart of some passenger services in late June clearly cannot progress until all challenges and hurdles have been met, and rightly so. We will be in contact shortly with those of you affected by this for Jersey sailings from June 19th into early July, and please watch out for our further updates on possible July, August and September travel news.
We are liaising proactively with both CI government officials to determine when they feel it will likely be safe, practicable and appropriate for open travel to and from each Island and will of course keep you informed as those plans emerge - we know you are keen to know so you can firm up your own planned holiday and general travel trip arrangements. It does seem likely that our timetables will need to adapt quickly and possibly at reasonably late notice as things develop.
Condor and the five port authorities to which we operate have developed leading safety protocols to ensure that when you and your families are able to travel with us again, you will find the experience at the ports, ferry terminals, boarding, onboard, and destination disembarkation ashore, to be safe, reassuring and efficiently effective - we all look forward to looking after you and welcoming you to our Islands.
Finally can I thank you for your understanding and patience whilst we have had to deal with this crisis challenge on our passenger bookings over the last two months, there are literally tens of thousands of bookings which we are having to deal with for you on an individual basis, and so it takes us time to respond to all of your enquiries.
We regrettably closed off our live chat and telephone access temporarily so we could channel all customer enquiries through the email system, which, although adding possibly to your frustration, does enable us to focus all of our agents’ time into dealing with your needs. I can assure you that all team members at Condor Ferries are focused on your needs and we will progress each and every enquiry, need or request as quickly as possible.
Again, my thanks for your business, and for your sympathetic patience as we try to make revised plans for your planned travel by sea with us over the next few months ahead.
Please keep safe and well - we keenly look forward to sailing again as soon as possible, and able to welcome you back onboard. Please remember the Channel Islands are stunningly beautiful and safe places to live and visit, with both Islands demonstrating excellent responses to the Covid-19 pandemic challenge, so a fantastic visit awaits you as soon as we can sail again.
Condor Ferries CEO