|HSC Condor Liberation (2015 onwards)|
|Maiden Voyage||27th March 2015|
|Shipyard||Austal Shipyard, Philippines|
|Routes||Poole (GBR) - St-Peter Port (GBG) - St-Helier (GBJ)|
|Port of Registry||Nassau, Bahamas|
|Gross Tonnage||6,307 GT|
|Engines||3 engines MTU 20V8000M71L|
|Propulsion||3 waterjets Wärtsilä LXJ 1300|
|Transmission||3 gearboxes ZF 53800|
|Power||27,300 kW (36,609 CH DIN)|
|Maximum Speed||39 knots (max) - 33 (knots - loaded)|
|Passengers & Cargo|
|Passengers||880 passengers + crew|
543 Ocean Traveller seats
270 Ocean Plus seats
70 Ocean Club seats
188 lanemeters for lorries & trailers + 137 cars
In 2005, Austal shipyard built a fast stabilised monohull for Fred Olsen Express, commercially known as AutoExpress 127. This stabilised monohull looks like a trimaran, yet most of her weight is on her fine central hull, and both amah hulls are just there on the purpose of providing extra stability. Combined with Heeling Tanks and Stabilizers, they proved to be quite efficient on Benchijigua Express.
Thus, Austal decided to enhance its design, and built an improved shorter version of its stabilised monohull, Auto Express 102. She has a similar layout although she has only three engines and slightly deeper amah hulls. The shipyard began her building in 2008 in order to back its activities whilst the shipyard did not have much orders. Auto Express 102 has however been cheaply built (with a frame spacing of 2m instead of the 1.2m we usually find on a HSC) to reduce costs (although she cost $100 millions to be built), funded by the Macquarie Bank. Austal Hull 270 was completed in December 2009, however no operator was interested in her at the time although Austal claimed that there were potential customers in Eastern Asia.
Sea trials held in early-2010 demonstrated that the ship was a better sea keeper than Benchijigua Express despite the lack of heeling tanks and of stabilizers, and also faster than designed, reaching speeds of 40 knots.
In 2013, Euroferries has been interested in purchasing Austal Hull 270 for service between Ramsgate (GBR) and Boulogne sur Mer (FRA). However, the operator has been unable to fund the purchase of the ship and she remained in the hands of her builder. During her time being laid up (between 2010 and 2014), she broke once her mooring, and hit the rocks.
Wanting to get its money back, Macquarie Bank wanted in 2013-14 Austal Hull 270 to be sold. Therefore, it is rumoured that it asked Condor Ferries, one of its subsidiaries, to purchase the ship to replace its older crafts. Condor Ferries then began negotiating with the Channel Islands’ government to lengthen its operating agreement from 2017 to 2024, pledging the purchase of a new ship that would replace both Condor Express and Condor Vitesse on the Weymouth service. She was supposed to be able for operation in rougher seas than her predecessors.
In May 2014, after the operating agreement was signed, Condor Ferries began negotiating with Austal to purchase Austal Hull 270. The contract was signed in August, including some slight alterations to be done to the ship (with the addition of Bridge Wings and of a Stern Ramp for cars). However, Condor Ferries soon realised that its new ship could not be operated from berth 3 in Weymouth as planned, and asked the Dorset council to built appropriate facilities at berth 1.
The then named Condor 102, is the first High Speed Craft that had not be bought by Condor Ferries to Incat since the delivery of Condor 10 in 1993. Condor 102 made her maiden arrival in Poole on 26th December 2014, well welcome by Britons and Islanders. She then remained at berth to enable a Bournemouth-established company to fit her accommodation deck. Condor 102 was also painted to Condor Ferries’ new brand colours. Eventually, she performed berthing trials in both Guernsey and Jersey.
Her introduction has been to a great extend covered by the media. Open days have been organised in Guernsey and Jersey, with admissions fees in order to curve the affluence of people wishing to visit their new ship. A competition has also been organised to give a name to the then called Condor 102. Eventually, she was christened as Condor Liberation, referring to the liberation of Jersey during World War 2, 70 years before, on 9th May 1945. However, it has been announced a few weeks that she would be eventually based in Poole, since the Dorset council refused enhancing Weymouth’s harbour. Condor Ferries also benefited worldwide media coverage thanks to its Safety Rap, although it has been disliked by much of its viewer.
Condor Ferries eventually announced that a sister-ship would be ordered to replace Condor Rapide by 2017 if the introduction of Condor Liberation was successful. Condor Liberation performed her maiden voyage on 27th March 2015, being still well welcomed by the public.
Condor Liberation encountered a lot of teething issues during her first year of service, a number that decreased during her second year of service. Most of her teething issues were related to her engines, bow thrusters and electrical components. Condor Liberation also proved to have difficulties to berth in inclement sea conditions, due to an important windage, resulting in two collisions with her berth, in Saint-Peter Port on 28th March 2015 and in Poole on 3rd January 2016. The second collision forced Condor Ferries to review its drydocking schedule.
Moreover, Condor Liberation has been accused of being unsuitable for service in the Channel Islands. Actually, Condor Liberation has been reproached her big hole on her top car deck, resulting in cars being salted on account of the sea spray. However, all of HSC’s builders have designed such holes in the past years, on the purpose of airing their garages. Condor Liberation also proved to be unstable, with huge rolling movements at some times that have been explained by the modification of her waterline length at waves, depending on whever one or both amah hulls are in the water at one time, challenging at each change her stability. This could also be explained by the lack of stabilizers and of heeling tanks.
Moreover, Condor Liberation did not get an operating licence for operation in 4.5m heigh waves as announced, and can only be operated in 2.5m heigh waves (instead of 3.5m for both Condor Express and Condor Vitesse). Trials to proved her ability to go in waves of up to 4.5m heigh were planned for Spring 2016 yet have never been conducted.
Due to her garage layout, she also encountered delays at her port of calls when being packed, since more time is needed to load cars than on board her predecessors.
In order to gain back the confidence of its customers, Condor Ferries ordered several reviews to prove the sutability of Condor Liberation for service in the Channel Islands. A review that followed the collision of 28th March highlighted that is was due to harbours being inadequate to Condor Liberation, and therefore that needs improvements.
Another review released in October 2015 concluded that Condor Liberation is suitable for service in the Channel Islands, and that her failures of 2015 were usual on a new ship, and that they would become less frequent as the ship gets older. It only highlights too short turnarounds times in port, resulting in much of her delays.
However on 15th March 2016, Condor Liberation's operating licence was suspended by British and French coastguards, following several deficiency on board. Condor Liberation resumed service on 18th March, after required works were done to fix the issues. Condor Ferries was then asked to charter in Normandie Express to cover for further disruptions during the Eastern period, which has never been done.
Prior to her introduction on the Saint-Malo service on March 2016, Condor Liberation came in Saint-Malo to perform berthing trials on 20th October 2015. They highlighted the unsuitability of the older link span to Condor Liberation, although she has been renovated a few months before. Moreover, the vessel proved to be too wide to be berthed at nights in Saint-Malo, since Condor Liberation would have been prevented ships from leaving the docks. Therefore, works will be required to operate her from Saint-Malo year-round, and she had to spend her nights in Saint-Helier during her operation period from Saint- Malo.
However, Condor Liberation has been well received by French customers. She was then expected to replace Condor Rapide from late-2017.
Condor Liberation's reliability issues remained plentiful since then. However, her low punctuality-rate was throughout Summer 2017 more due to her unability to reached the required speed of 35 knots rather than due to technical issues.
In October 2017, cracks were discovered on her waterjets, a few weeks before a schedule period of maintenance. She was therefore taken out of service until December 2017 mid-term, when she came back with her waterjets repaired and further ballasts to enhance her stability.
However, plans to transfer her on the Saint-Malo service have been postponed, likely until Condor Rapide's replacement now planned by the early-2020s.
One year ago, the HSC Condor Liberation was introduced on the route connecting the Channel Islands and the UK replacing HSC Condor Express and HSC Condor Vitesse. During the winter season, when HSC Condor Rapide, the remaining 86m catamaran built par Incat in the late-90s still owned by Condor Ferries, undergoes essential maintenance, the HSC Condor Liberation operates a through UK – France service.
The HSC Condor Liberation was initially given a warm welcome by the public, but soon became unpopular owing to teething problems and allege problems of stability whatever the sea conditions.
Our team had been wanting to try the HSC Condor Liberation to make up our own mind, that's why we decided to cross between Jersey and St-Malo on 12th March. On that day, the weather conditions were clement, with no more than 0.50cm waves and almost no wind, the crossing was to be perfect as the crew said before departure. Here is our report about HSC Condor Liberation.
A Travel report from Antoine.
Alongside the introduction of HSC Condor Liberation, Condor Ferries has decide to update its visual identity, choosing Pink and Yellow as its predominant colours instead of Blue and Red. Winter 2015-2016 will be the opportunity for Condor Ferries to update its entire fleet to the new visual identity, whilst maintaining its three other ships.
Antoine H. and Benjamin H.