Condor Express is a High Speed Craft which has been operated by Condor Ferries between 1997 and March 2015. Condor Express has mainly been allocated to the Weymouth – Channel Islands service but she has also served the Saint-Malo and Poole services.
|HSC Condor Express (1997 - 2015)|
|Maiden Voyage||31st January 1997|
|Shipyard||Incat, Hobart, Tasmania|
Poole (GBR) - Channel Islands (1997 - 2000, 2013 - 2014)
Weymouth (GBR) - Channel Islands (2001 - 2015)
|Port of Registry||Nassau (BHS)|
|Gross Tonnage||5,005 GT|
|Engines||4 engines Ruston 20RK270|
|Propulsion||4 waterjets Lips LJ145D|
|Transmission||4 gearboxes CVT Renk ASL60|
|Power||4 x 7,080 kW (@1,030 rpm)|
|Maximum Speed||48 knots max - 40 knots (service)|
|Fuel & Consumption||approx. 60l/min @ 1,030 rpm|
|Passengers & Cargo|
|Passengers||741 passengers and 30 crew|
|Garage||Up to 200 cars or a combination of 4 coaches and cars|
In 1995, whilst Condor 11 was operating the Channel Islands – Weymouth high speed service, Condor Ferries decided to scrap for Summer 1997 the conventional service operated with Havelet, replacing her with one larger fast craft.
Thus, Incat Hull 042, launched on 24th November 1996 seemed to be fitted for this service. This ship was one of four 86m-long high speed catamarans built by Incat in the late-1990s.
In December 1996, Incat Hull 042 was delivered to Singapour-registered society Shipping Company, before being christened on 17th December as Condor Express. She then set sail to Poole, where she was to be operated to the Channel Islands. Indeed, Condor Ferries thought that Weymouth was inadequate for operating Condor Express, and decided to transfer its UK operations to Poole.
Condor Express arrived in Poole on 15th January, and began operation from Weymouth on 31st January. Condor Ferries was thinking that it would be its last services operated from Weymouth.
On 1st March 1997, Condor Express was transferred to the Poole – Channel Islands service, whilst Condor Ferries was closing down its operations from Weymouth. However, Condor Express faced several technical issues during her first year of service, inducing a lot of cancellations. Condor 12 had to be chartered in for a few weeks in 1998 to cover for Condor Express whilst she was being overhauled. She has also been cancelled several times due to bad weather conditions, since High Speed Ferries could not be operated in as inclement seas as Havelet.
In late-1997, the Channel Islands government threat Condor Ferries to deprive it from its operating licence, offering it to other operators. Indeed, they thought that the scrapping of a conventional services alongside with operating a unreliable ferry was damaging the Islands tourism, and they wanted a better service than the one operated by Condor Ferries. Condor Ferries however kept its operating agreement with the pledge of ordering a new conventional ferry that would replace Havelet, purchased by Condor Ferries. Havelet was supposed when she resumed service to replace Condor Express in case of further weather or failure-related cancellations.
Eventually, 1997 has been one of Condor Ferries’ worst year since its creation. Actually, the failures of Condor Express had a strong impact on its turnover. Moreover, the move to Poole has been unpopular, driving a drop of passenger figures only 3 months after the move from Weymouth, and it was already decided to revert to Weymouth the following year. Therefore, Condor Ferries purchased Condor Express’ sistership, christened as Condor Vitesse for service from Weymouth. However, she was operated with limited passenger capacity, offering alternative sailings to Condor Express in case of further disruptions.
In 2001, Condor Ferries signed an operating agreement with Brittany Ferries to operate a joint Poole – Cherbourg-en-Cotentin service using Condor Vtesse. Therefore, Condor Express was transferred to the Weymouth service, whilst the Poole operations became summer-only.
In 2002, Condor Express was sold to Bahamas-registered company Condor Express Ltd and was registered in Nassau. She was then sold to Condor Ltd in 2005.
Following engine troubles, Condor Express was transferred between 03rd and 12th September 2005 to the less-taxing Poole service, swapping her routes with Condor Vitesse. On 11th May 2013, following further engines failures, Condor Express had been laid up for a few days in Poole to enable repairs. She was then repainted to a following livery to Condor Vitesse’s one, only with a blue stripe instead of Condor Vitesse’s yellow one.
Since the end of the Brittany Ferries’ partnership, Condor Ferries was offering an overcapacity on its England – Channel Islands high speed service. Therefore, it looked for replacing Condor Express and Condor Vitesse by a larger High Speed Craft. Moreover, Condor Ferries’ owner, Macquarie Bank wanted Condor Ferries to purchase a ship that the bank has funded and that have not been used since. Eventually, the company also wanted to update its fleet, with a more modern High Speed Craft.
Therefore, Condor Ferries has negotiated with the Channel Islands governments an extension of its operating contract, that was to end in 2017, until 2024. In August 2014, Condor Ferries announced that it has purchased the Austal Hull 270, renamed Condor 102, which was to replace in early-2015 both Condor Express and Condor Vitesse.
On 14th January 2015, Condor Express was sold alongside her sister to Greek company Seajets, for an undisclosed sum. However, it is now estimated to €9 millions each. The same day, Condor Express was sent to Falmouth’s shipyard to be unpainted. Condor Express resumed service on 30th January, supposed to operate the last Weymouth services, that were to terminate on 23rd March 2015.
She was then de-stocked and lost any mention of her past with Condor Ferries on board, supposed to leave for Pirea once Condor Liberation’s introduction had been successful. However, due to engines failures, she had to replace Condor Liberation on 3rd and 4th April 2015 from Poole. That were her last crossings to the Channel Islands.
After having been sent to Falmouth, Condor Express set sail to Greece on 18th May 2015. When she arrived, she was renamed Champion Jet 2 and sent to drydock before her introduction on June on the Pirea – Cyclades Islands service.