Meet The New Ferry Owner

Christian Raring To Ferry 

For someone from landlocked Austria Christian Zemann has spent a lot of time on the water.  

The 33-year-old has just completed the deal to buy the historic, Shotley-Harwich-Felixstowe foot ferry service, which starts the new season from Good Friday. 

After spending his youth on the mountains and lakes of Austria, Christian went off travelling to pursue his love of watersports and ended up as an instructor in kite-surfing.

Fully qualified with a yacht-master’s license and more than 4,000 hours teaching, using a flat-bottomed boat very similar to the foot-ferry, Christian has 18-year’s experience on seas from as far as South America to Europe.

After working in Hamburg as an account manger with ten staff selling websites, Christian moved to Suffolk where he set up a wines and spirits business, specialising in Austrian wines, which he plans to continue running.

His love of the open air and the water prompted him to jump at the opportunity to buy the ferry as soon as he read that previous owner Alan Sage was retiring and selling up.

“Although I was doing well in the professional world with all the suits and things, I was not really happy,” admitted Christian.

“I saw the article about the ferry online and instantly thought ‘that’s for me’.

“I spoke with Alan and I was sure straight away. He has been brilliant with getting this done.

“At first I thought there was no way we could start running in April but the bank, accountant, everyone involved were great and Alan made it an easy deal to get done quickly.”

Christian, who will run the business with his wife Lucy, is looking for a qualified skipper and a crew member to help him operate the ferry, although he intends to be hands on.

The Shotley Website caught up with him as he was in the MV Explorer 12 with Alan undergoing sea trials and training and his enthusiasm was infectious.

“It’s what I enjoy doing,” said Christian. “There is nothing better than being out here, whatever the weather, but when the sun is shining and the sea is flat, then it is an absolute joy. I can’t wait until the passengers are back.

“I’m 33 so the ferry is safe for another 50 years,” he said, only half joking. “I want to give a big thank you for making this all happen.”

Although Christian is looking to possibly expand in the future, this season’s timetable will remain as scheduled and publicised.

“Everything will be the same this year,” confirmed Christian. “The same timetable, same boat, even the same fleeces.

“We will look at things at the end of the season at perhaps a bigger boat or extending the season – but that’s for the future.”

Former owner Alan will be with Christian over the Easter period to ensure the hand over goes smoothly and is looking forward to using the ferry as a passenger.

He said: “I’m delighted the ferry has been saved.

“My wife and I will be bringing the dog over on the ferry and going for walks around Shotley and down to Pin Mill.

“Christian has done a brilliant job in getting everything signed and sealed. 

“After the story about me retiring went out I had another four serious offers but Christian was first and I kept to my word.

“I’m sure he will do a good job.”

Cycles will remain welcome on the ferry and if you, or a group would like to book ahead please contact Christian on 07919911440.

If you would like to book a place on the ferry, are interested in skippering the boat on a part-time, flexible basis and have an ICC, or in being a crew member, contact Christian.

By Derek Davis on March 23rd, 2015