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Minister "misremembered" letter from Condor


Wednesday 13 December 2023

Minister "misremembered" letter from Condor

Wednesday 13 December 2023

The Economic Development Minister has apologised for stating that Condor did not give notice of a significant hike in freight prices that will be a major blow to retailers and consumers – when he had been told in November.

Deputy Kirsten Morel, who is also holder of the second highest political office as Deputy Chief Minister, said on Monday that he had not been told in advance of a 19% price hike in Condor's freight prices, an increase that has retailers worried as it is likely to make goods even more expensive.

However, when it emerged this wasn't correct, Deputy Morel was forced to interrupt the ongoing Government Plan debate in the States Assembly today (Wednesday) in order to correct his initial statement.

He said: "On Monday, in Questions Without Notice, I was asked whether I had been made aware of freight price increases.

"I had received a letter regarding freight price increases, but in the moment I thought it was about passenger price increases."

Following the States Assembly meeting, a Government spokesperson later said that, in making the comment, Deputy Morel meant that he had "misremembered" the letter from Condor in mid-November and "incorrectly recalled" its contents.

News of the price increases broke last Monday (4 December), days after Ferryspeed and Profreight emailed clients to say that they may have to pass the cost on. In the States Chamber, Deputy Morel added that he believed Condor's letter had been sent on 16 November, and that he had replied to it – though he did not mention when his reply was sent. Express has asked for this correspondence.

Deputy Morel apologised to States Members and anyone outside the States Assembly who was affected by his mistake.

The freight fee hike

The ferry operator's plan is to increase prices by inflation (8.76%) plus 10% - which would result in a total increase of 18.76% from 1 January 2024.

The proposed price increase emerged in an email sent to Ferryspeed and Profreight customers at the beginning of the month.

This was quickly followed by backlash from the business community, who voiced concerns about the impact on customers.

Deputy Morel then publicly called on Condor to justify the increase in price.

The ferry operator responded days later, saying it had "no choice", and was dealing with "significantly above-inflation rises in some port costs and other fees, which in some cases are between 18% to 35%".

Ports of Jersey announced an 11.1% rise in fees at the Harbour and the Airport in the new year. This is the maximum amount that Ports of Jersey can increase its fees by – Jersey's recently published 10.1% inflation rate plus 1% – under rules set by the island's competition watchdog.

Guernsey's mooring fees, meanwhile, are set to increase by between 12 and 45% depending on the size of the vessel. The biggest are those aimed at private boat owners, but they hit every facet of the operations including air passengers, freight handling and cargo shipments. Guernsey's competition authority said yesterday that it was unable to challenge these, as it the States of Guernsey are "effectively" the price regulator.

Jersey's deal with Condor

Condor signed an agreement with Jersey’s Harbourmaster in 2014 which, in essence, gave the company an exclusive ramp licence to run Roll-on, Roll-off services in return for a guaranteed level of service, including types of vessels, pricing and timetables.

The decade-long agreement does not prohibit other operators entering the market, but they would have to provide the same level of service as that set out in its 80 pages – setting a high barrier to overcome.

The current 10-year deal between the Government and Condor is in its ‘winding down’ phase, with a new agreement on such matters as capacity and frequency due to be signed before July 2025.


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Condor silent as Minister demands "justification" for freight price hike

Retailers rattled by "brutal" freight increase proposals

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ANALYSIS: Jersey and Condor in talks as agreement 'wind down' begins

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