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FOCUS: Ports plans for 'new normal' of travel

FOCUS: Ports plans for 'new normal' of travel

Wednesday 13 May 2020

FOCUS: Ports plans for 'new normal' of travel


Thermal screening, UV sanitisation and contact-free security searches are expected to be part of the 'new normal' at the airport and harbour when flights and sailings resume - though these links could be hit if the government continues to force visitors to self-isolate for 14 days, Ports of Jersey's strategy director has told Express.

Although the official start date will depend on government guidance, the Ports team is currently preparing when commercial flights and sailings can start again.

The government's 'Safe Exit Framework' suggests that this could be soon - when the island steps down to 'Level Two' lockdown, which doesn't appear to include compulsory quarantine - and Ports of Jersey (PoJ) is leaving no stone left unturned as it prepares for that moment.

“We have no idea what [future travel] is going to look like,” Alan Merry, PoJ's Executive Strategy and Development Director, told Express.

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Pictured: Ports' Executive Strategy and Development Director shared his thoughts on the 'new normal' of travel with Express.

“We have to prepare for any eventualities. When the government sets out standards, we need to be ready for those.

“Our focus is the welfare of passengers and staff. We will put in place any of the measures that the government and the companies ask. We will do whatever it takes, so that the welfare of passengers and staff is taken care of and they all feel safe.”

Ports of Jersey has also been looking at PPE requirements for staff and passengers alike, as companies like RyanAir have announced they will only allow people to travel if they wear a mask.

But, beyond that, they are also investigating new technologies currently being trialled in the UK, such as UV sanitation, thermal screening and contactless security procedures.

Heathrow is at the forefront of that charge, aiming to create a Common International Standard for health screening at airports to reduce transmission of covid-19.

The first of Heathrow's trials, happening in the immigration halls this week and next, will be temperature screening technology using cameras to monitor the temperatures of people as they move through the airport. If successful, it will be rolled out across departures, connections and search areas.

All possibilities are currently “in the mix” for Jersey, according to Mr Merry, and not one has been excluded.

Ports of Jersey has already been in touch with some suppliers and Mr Merry says they should be able to source the necessary technologies quickly.

“Over the next few days we will try and decide which one we will try and prioritise," he said.

“Whatever we have to do, we will. What is sure is that it’s going to be a different process compared to what it was back in February.”

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Pictured: Mr Merry says travelling will look different when it resumes.

Whatever measures are implemented, Mr Merry said it will be important to be adaptable to the different requirements from the government, companies and different airports.

“We are learning all the time,” he said. “This is not a normal planning situation, we will have to retain a degree of flexibility and be agile, we will need to accommodate both of these. 

Ports of Jersey is therefore working “extremely closely with the government”, with Mr Merry describing discussions around travel requirements as a “joint effort”. 

“One of the benefits of the current situation - if there is one benefit to draw - is that our working relationship with the government is very, very good,” he said.

“We are aligned in terms of what we are going to do, and we will support the government in what it is trying to achieve.”

 

Testament to the close working relationship between PoJ and the Government is that 50 staff from the former have been redeployed to support the latter in different areas, including the construction of the Nightingale hospital.

“I am very proud of the role they have been able to play,” Mr Merry said, adding that he was equally proud of the team as a whole for their super superb effort in adapting and responding to the situation.

In light of the news that the UK government this week announced that Channel Islanders will be exempt from requirements to self-isolate for 14 days when they visit the mainland, questions have been raised locally about whether Jersey will reciprocate and create a 'travel bubble' with them. It was confirmed last week that the idea was being explored by a senior advisory committee to government, but no decision has yet been made.

The decision could be pivotal for the future of Jersey's travel links, which are currently restricted to a single 'lifeline' route with Blue Islands.

Mr Merry warned that some providers may choose not to fly to the island if quarantine for new arrivals remains compulsory.

“Companies will start operations when they have a fair chance of passengers flying; it has to be economically viable for them,” he explained.

“If somebody travels to the UK and there is a 14-day isolation, there will be a limited number wanting to buy tickets. This is pretty critical in enabling the restart of travel.

“All we can do is make sure we are taking every possible step to make sure passengers are safe.”

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Pictured: "Our reserves are good, they are going to see us through this," Mr Merry said.

Like many other businesses in the island, Ports of Jersey is eager to see things return to normal. As Mr Merry explained, the financial impact of the virus crisis has had a significant impact on the company, but they have enough to see them through…for now, at least.

“90% of the flights have stopped and it’s the same with sailings,” he said. “It’s had a huge impact on the business. 

“We can still quite happily continue to operate. Our reserves are good - they are going to see us through this. We are working very closely with the government, who are 100% shareholders, but they are not involved at this stage in terms of funding.

“At this moment in time, we are continuing to operate in the same way we always have. Recovery is what we are now planning for.

“We do have resources and reserves but at the same time we need to be very clear that our future plan really does depend on how and when business begin to pick up again, which is true for every business.

“It all depends on the decisions of the government, the airlines, as well as people’s decision to travel. There are so many factors that are unusual and we’ve never seen before.” 

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