‘Support French trade links,’ watchdog tells government

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Earlier this year French company Nostos Marine announced it was launching a new service using the 55-metre Southern Liner vessel between St Malo and St Helier that would focus on construction and agricultural materials.

THE government should provide incentives to support new freight links with France as the Island is ‘heavily dependent’ on the UK trade route, according to the competition watchdog.

A Jersey Competition and Regulatory Authority review into freight logistics found that there was an ‘opportunity to diversify and increase supply resilience’ by looking to Europe, to combat potential risks in the supply chain.

Seven recommendations were made by the authority, which included the suggestions that the government should develop a ‘policy framework’ to support competition in the freight sector and for Ports of Jersey to look at whether space at the port could be used for potential new entrants to the market.

The JCRA’s review says: ‘Market study analysis (and engagement with stakeholders) indicated that freight logistics showed itself to be resilient during the pandemic. However, this does not preclude risks to future market resilience, and, going forward, most users remained concerned about choice.

‘Indeed, a number of the stakeholders referenced the potential resilience risks were there to be a material change in market circumstances and/or structure, such as key entities ceasing to trade.’

It also states that Jersey is ‘heavily dependent on one RoRo operator/one large freight logistics provider/trade with the UK. This could be a potential market resilience risk’.

Outlining the recommendation for government intervention on French routes, the JCRA said: ‘To support this will likely require initiatives to support French trading links, for example providing government stimulus support as appropriate, disseminating additional information on, for example, customs procedures and market information.

‘This is consistent with the findings in respect of resilience, in particular the creation of additional supply resilience, through the consideration and development of French routes.’

Earlier this year, Condor Ferries announced that it was boosting its southern freight route to improve trade flow between the Island and St Malo by increasing the number of freight sailings from April from 1-5% per week.

Around the same time, French company Nostos Marine announced it was launching a new service using the 55-metre Southern Liner vessel between St Malo and St Helier that would focus on construction and agricultural materials.

The JCRA review also stated that a lack of space at the port was preventing new entrants to the market and constraining growth.

‘Warehousing capacity at the port is a specific constraint, in particular in the context of temperature-controlled business and competition in freight logistics [it] is also affected by wider policy matters, for example road accessibility and vehicle restrictions, which reduce the scope for handling freight outside the port,’ according to the review.

To address this, the JCRA has recommended that the government review the traffic operating issues and seek to create ‘freight corridors’.

‘A temporary and targeted relaxation of restrictions on vehicle size and operating times would help to create a “freight corridor” to warehousing outside the port estate and thereby increase access to space,’ it said.

A Ports of Jersey spokesperson said: ‘Ports of Jersey welcomes the publication of the market study into Jersey’s freight logistics by the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority.

‘Many of the findings are consistent with known constraints within the Harbour estate and the pivotal role this market plays in Island life. We will be working with the regulator and relevant stakeholders to work through the findings and recommendations.’