THE chances of Condor Ferries running its new vessel from Poole appear to be increasing after the operator signed a fresh Channel Islands’ operating licence.
It paves the way for the firm to introduce a new super-ferry to replace its ageing vessels.
But, as previously reported, its current home at Weymouth cannot accommodate the larger and faster ferry that would be brought in and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council does not have the cash to make the necessary improvements.
That could open the door for a switch to Poole next year.
The Austal H270, a 102-metre trimaran capable of taking 245 cars and up to 1,165 passengers, is set to enter service next Easter.
The company will operate it as a single ferry operation on cross-Channel sailings, replacing Condor Vitesse and Condor Express which currently sail from Weymouth and Poole.
The signing of a 10-year operating agreement allowing Condor Ferries to continue to offer a passenger and freight link service between the UK, Channel Islands and France was announced by the Port of Jersey.
The agreement provides ‘future stability on the vital sea route’ and also enables Condor to make ‘significant investment’ into ferry services with the purchase of the £50m Austal.
Condor wants to continue sailing from Weymouth, but says the only suitable dock for the Austal is berth one near the Stone Pier. Upgrading it will cost the council £10m.
Council chiefs are to meet Condor Chief Executive James Fulford later this week for an update.
Management committee chairman Cllr Mike Byatt said: “The council’s position hasn’t changed in terms of the finances to do significant works to the harbour walls that Condor is suggesting.
“We will wait to see what the outcome is of the discussions we have with Condor.”
Leader of Borough of Poole, Cllr Elaine Atkinson, told the Daily Echo last night: “I am delighted that more business could be coming to Poole, but it will be a huge loss for Weymouth.
“Fortunately, in future plans which were made for Poole by Harbour Commissioners, we have got the facilities in the port to cater for these larger vessels, as well as potential suitability for small cruise ships to sail out of Poole.
“Thanks to strategic planning in Poole, we will be aiming to keep the service in our port.”
Mr Fulford has previously said that the firm has not ruled out making a contribution to berth upgrade works in Weymouth.