Condor Ferries finally completed the purchase of Austal 102 in late August, with the trimaran due to enter service between Poole and the Channel Islands during spring 2015. Built speculatively at Austal’s Henderson base in Western Australia, the craft has been lying awaiting sale since completion in 2010. She can carry around 1,000 passengers with space for 245 cars, or a mix of 145 cars and 190 lane metres of freight.
Powered by three MTU diesel engines with a top speed of 39 knots, Austal 102 was moved earlier in the year to an Austal facility in the Philippines and will remain there for work prior to the handover to Condor. She is expected to replace at least one of the fleet’s existing 86m Incats.
Currently the 1996-built Condor Express sails with Condor Vitesse, completed in 1997, and Condor Rapide, also delivered in 1997 but built initially for Royal Australian Navy service as HMAS Jervis Bay and acquired by Condor in 2010 after commercial operations in the Mediterranean.
Condor chief executive James Fulford confirmed: ‘We are now the proud owners of the Austal 102. This represents £50 million of investment in our Islands and enables us to improve reliability, increase capacity, and give guests a much greater level of comfort.’ News that Austal 102 will run from Poole under a five-year agreement is a blow to Weymouth, but expensive modifications needed to adapt to the port’s No.1 berth would have taken a year or more to complete.
Commodore Clipper returned to Condor’s Portsmouth-Guernsey-Jersey freight and passenger run on 22 August after dry docking at Falmouth for repairs to hull damage sustained when contacting the sea bottom close to Guernsey on 17 July.