11th November 2003
Emeraude Ferries rescue attempt falters
Emeraude Ferries ran a passenger service between St Malo and the Channel Islands. Founded in 1904, it rebranded as Emeraude Lines in the late 1980s and ran into problems when, in 2003, it faced competition from Condor Ferries, which had been granted a licence to run a similar service on the same route. For a while, private investors based in Jersey looked set to take over the route, but the French administrators had other ideas.
The bid had been one of three and, according to the Jersey Evening Press, it would have not only maintained the service but added an additional route and paid all of the company’s debts. Despite this, the administrator had rejected the offer, and only reconsidered when the bidder submitted a check for several million US dollars. Eventually, Emeraude was taken over by French transport operator Sogestran, which ran it for several years.
Jersey had impounded Emeraude Lines’ ferry, Solidor 5, for three days in October 2003 when Emeraude had been unable to pay its harbour dues. At the time, Emeraude Lines had already files for protection from bankruptcy with debts of around €4m and, according to the BBC, the vessel was released “after the Harbours department said ‘sufficient comfort’ had been provided by the administrator in respect of outstanding and ongoing harbour dues”. The Jersey Evening Post said the unpaid harbour dues amounted to £300,000.
Solidor 5 was later held in Cherbourg after it went in for a service and a dispute arose over who should pay.
Despite its problems, Emeraude didn’t immediately disappear and, by 2004, it had chartered a catamaran from Hoverspeed with a capacity for 80 cars. The following autumn, Solidor 5 was out of service again, initially for up to two months. However, problems dragged on and, according to the BBC on 21 December 2005, “Emeraude Ferries have said they can not expect to restart a service to St Malo until February at the earliest”.
February came and went with the service still not running and, in May, there was further bad news to come. More than 30 jobs were lost as Emeraude Ferries laid off all of its Jersey staff.
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