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Manche Iles sailings to return in Spring

Manche Iles sailings to return in Spring

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Manche Iles sailings to return in Spring

Wednesday 12 January 2022


Sailings between the Manche department and the Channel Islands will be resuming this Spring after a two-year break.

Last September, the Manche regional department revealed it was looking for a new operator after putting an end to the public service agreement under which the sailings operated.

The previous public service delegation agreement had been granted to the ‘Compagnie Maritime Anglo-Normande’ in 2015 and ended in December 2021.

Shipping company DNO announced the sailings would resume next Spring in a post on Facebook this week. It appears that DNO is simply a legal entity whilst the brand will remain Manche Iles Express, as it is property of the department.

According to the Coutances’ Trade and Companies Register, DNO is a simplified stock corporation registered in late November and based in Saint-Pierre-Langers in the Manche department.

It is registered for the transport of passengers and freight as well as the building, buying, operation and management of the vessels and equipment required for such transport.

Two of the registered associates, Olivier Normand and Nelly Depardieu, previously worked for Manche Iles Express whilst the third, Olivier Chantreau, owns Jerseytour.com.

The Manche Department confirmed to Express that it had chosen a new provider for the sailings to the Channel Islands.

“As owner of the passenger ferries Granville and Victor Hugo, the departmental council of La Manche is committed to maintaining direct sailings with the islands,” a statement said.

“One of the priorities of the council is to capitalise on the local maritime assets by including the revitalisation of the ports as well as the economic, environmental, sportive or touristic activities attached to it.”

After the pandemic affected sailings in 2020 – the number of passengers between Jersey and Granville went from 109,500 in 2019 to 558 in 2020 - the departmental council attempted to find a way forward in January 2021.

Manche Iles Victor Hugo

Pictured: The Victor Hugo is one of two vessels owned by the Manche department.

“At the end of 2020, a difficult year for the local sailings, marked by the islands of Guernsey, Sark and Aurigny being closed and the restrictions to enter Jersey, such as PCR tests for arriving passengers at the beginning of the summer, the department and the provider Manche Iles Express decided to cease all sailings from Spring 2021 and until further notice,” they explained.

“Due to the uncertainty over the pandemic and how it will affect sailings this year and beyond, the Manche department said they wanted to be cautious before entering a new agreement for the operation of its vessels.”

In September 2021, Jean Morin, the President of the departmental council of La Manche, which owns the two vessels Manche Iles Express had been operating under a public service delegation agreement, the Victor Hugo and Granville, said the department wanted to change its process.

“We have terminated the public service agreement under which those links operated to reach out to service providers,” he explained. “We have launched a tender process, which has yielded some results... but we still haven’t made a choice. If all goes well, we could resume those links from next April.”

Pictured: The two ferries in Granville.

A tender process was launched in Spring 2021, in a bid to identify an operator that would be able to provide the service in a more profitable way.

Negotiations started in early 2021 for the provision of a “northern” line, departing from Barneville-Carteret and Diélette, and a “southern” line, leaving from Granville, for which it would continue to provide the vessels. 

Three candidates were able to present a formal proposal for assessment in July 2021, after which negotiations continued until October over the technical and financial aspects of the offers.

During a meeting on 8 November, a committee in charge of procurement selected DNO, as they believed its offer to be “economically most advantageous”. That decision was then approved by the council’s standing commission.

The contract started on 1 January 2022 for a fixed term of two years, which can be tacitly renewed twice for a period of two years each.

Despite the appointment of the new provider, the Manche department was clear that there are still challenges on the horizon.

“With this new contract, there is still a double uncertainty, health-related and political, and therefore economical over the market.

"First of all, after two years of pandemic which affected the sailings with the Channel Islands and despite more widespread vaccines, the impact of the health crisis will be inevitable on the attendance of those sailings.

“In addition, since the UK implemented Brexit, the governments of Jersey and Guernsey (to which Sark and Aurigny are attached) have decided to adopt the same entry rules as the UK government and therefore they are only allowing those with a passport to enter the Channel Islands and no longer those with an identity card. However, only 60% of adult passengers have a passport (40% for minors).”

Jean Morin

Pictured: Jean Morin, the President of the departmental council of la Manche.

The Manche department successfully requested an exemption for school groups from Jersey to allow them to enter the island with their identity card. During the Normandy Summit on 24 September, which was largely dominated by discussions about fishing, Jean Morin asked for that exemption to be extended to adults, but Jersey authorities have made clear that they cannot allow it.

He also discussed with the Channel Islands authorities a potential contribution to the sailings, which is still yet to be considered.

With the number of passengers likely to drop as a result of the pandemic and the passport requirement, the new contract includes new terms.

“Even if it should go back up over the next few years, it is expected that attendance will drop. It has therefore been decided that the annual flat-rate fee, corresponding to the operating deficit over the number of sailings ordered, will be revised, whether upwards or downwards, thanks to the mutual protection mechanism for attendance risks.”

It is expected that DNO will be releasing his schedule soon with sailings expected to start in April 2022.

READ MORE...

La Manche hunts for new Channel Islands ferry provider

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