Emeraude Ferries - St Malo to Jersey
Emeraude Ferries operated car ferries between St Malo and Jersey from 1977 to 2006 and, in doing so, brought much needed stability to a key route which had seen a succession of operators over the years.
Emeraude, who were already operating passenger-only vessels on the route in the early 1970s, stepped in with the car ferry Solidor, when the Jersey company Channel Island Ferries folded within three years of the launch of their new, purpose-built ferry Fleur des Iles.
Channel Island Ferries, a new ferry operator, had commissioned the construction of Fleur des Iles as the first true car ferry to operate the St Malo route following the demise in 1969 of Jersey Lines' operations with Duchesse de Normandie, followed by Duchesse de Bretagne. Both these vessels required vehicles to be craned on and off.
Emeraude started life in 1904 as Société des bateaux de la côte d'Émeraude, operating vedettes across the River Rance between Dinard and St Servan, which adjoins St Malo. With interruptions for world wars, the company ran this service until 1967, when the opening of a road route across the Rance Barrage took most of the business away from the vedettes. By 1972 the company had decided that its future lay elsewhere and a passenger service was initiated between Jersey and St Malo with the Belle de Jersey. Renamed Emeraude Lines, the company operated their conventional vedettes in competition with Condor's hydrofoils.
Such was their initial success that in 1976 Belle de Jersey was transferred to the Granville to Jersey route and Belle de Dinard ran between the island and St Malo. The following year Emeraude decided to launch their car ferry service from the French port to Jersey and Guernsey, purchasing a 12-year-old vessel which was renamed Solidor. She was capable of carrying 60 cars and 560 passengers, and Channel Island residents who were delighted to be able to easily travel backwards and forwards to France with their cars, made the service successful.
After 12 years in service on the route Solidor was replaced with the younger Solidor 2, which was itself already 12 years old. A conventional ferry, which had previously operated as the Langeland between Langeland in Denmark and Kiel in Germany, she took anything upwards of three hours to cross from St Malo to Jersey.
This proved no hardship for the many passengers who decided to enjoy an excellent meal in the Solidor's restaurant before disembarking on to French soil for the start of their holiday. Emeraude's Solidors had the vehicle carrying side of the route to themselves as Condor switched their attention to routes to England, introducing first their hydrofoils, and then fast catamarans, alongside conventional car carrying ferries.
Emeraude kept ahead of any potential competition by introducing Solidor 3 in 1996, followed by Solidor 4 in 2001 and Solidor 5 the same year. But reduced capacity – Solidor 4 only held 300 passengers and 32 cars – meant higher operating costs and Emeraude started to struggle.
Competition from Condor in 2002, with the introduction of their first car-carrying catamaran to the St Malo route, led to severe financial problems and a formal bankruptcy process in 2003, after losses of 3 million Euros the previous year. The company was taken over by the Sogestran group, which acquired Solidor 2, Solidor 4 and Solidor 5 in the process. But the writing was on the wall, and continuing financial difficulties, coupled with their inability to find a suitable vessel to operate competitively on the route from the islands to France, led to the company announcing in May 2006 that it was ceasing operations.