QUEUES of residents and visitors were forming along Poole Quay as Condor Express prepared to welcome them aboard.

Moored on the town quay, the ferry lowered the gangplank and the 30-strong crew welcomed guests aboard as the company celebrates its 50th year of ferrying holidaymakers across the sea.

The first passenger service from the Channel Islands to France started in 1964 and in 1987 the first service linking the islands with the UK was launched.

From 1997 there have been sailings from Poole and this is the third year Condor Ferries has held a popular open day on the quay.

“We have great friends in Poole, we have been here for nearly 20 years,” said Condor Ferries chief executive James Fulford.

“We have got a number of facilities shoreside here and a great catchment area of East Dorset and the conurbation of Bournemouth and Poole we are hoping will enjoy their trips to the Channel Islands whether it’s for the day, week or month.”

Representatives from Jersey, Guernsey and St Malo tourist organisations were onboard offering information about attractions in their regions.

There were exclusive offers and the chance to sample local delicacies as well as win a holiday and the chance to explore the highly manoeuvrable ferry, whose water-jets enable it to move sideways.

Among VIP guests taking a rare opportunity of a tour of the engine room was Poole deputy mayor, Cllr Carol Evans. She heard from second engineer Tony Dunn: “This is not a conventional ship – it’s a glorified jet-boat or ski-boat.”

Cllr Evans said: “It’s wonderful to have Condor here in Poole to bring visitors and business to Poole from the Channel Islands. The ship is as clean as it can be, using ordinary diesel as opposed to heavy fuel.”

Senior Master Captain Steve Ainscow delighted in showing people around the bridge of the ship that is capable of 39 knots (45mph).