Wednesday, September 16, 2015

RoRo Freight and Passenger Ferry Dispute in its Dying Throes as Vessels Finally Handed Over

DFDS Collect the Two MyFerryLink Ships from Eurotunnel
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – UK – Having announced plans to sell the two ships at the centre of the MyFerryLink debacle at the beginning of the month, the Eurotunnel Group have officially transferred the Rodin and the Berlioz to the DFDS Group fleet in Dunkirk, under a bareboat charter agreement in accordance with the contract signed between the pair at the start of June 2015. Whilst passing over the RoRo passenger and freight ferries, Eurotunnel revealed the extent of the costs incurred as a result of the recent protests from ex-SeaFrance workers who held the vessels hostage to prevent them from being handed over.

Eurotunnel claims SCOP SeaFrance owes MyFerryLink €22.7 million, of which €4.8 million are penalties for late hand-over of the ships, with the remainder relating to loss of revenue and repairs to the vessels, both of which were allegedly damaged by SCOP members during their occupation. Conversely, says Eurotunnel, MyFerryLink owes the SCOP SeaFrance €3.5 million for the balance of the ‘sale of capacity’, of which €600,000 has been paid under the terms of the protocol which finally brought an end to the conflict and enabled the release of the ships by SCOP protesters and the subsequent return of the ships to the owners by the appointed SeaFrance liquidator.

MyFerryLink management said it was obliged to abandon its maritime operations by the British competition authorities at the end of the period covered by the operating contracts with the SCOP SeaFrance, on July 1, 2015. Others may take an alternative view, SCOP seemed always to believe that the legal fight should have continued, whilst Eurotunnel, having lived up to its contractual obligations toward the MyFerryLink workers, threw in the towel. 

The history of this long running dispute can be seen in the Handy Shipping Guide archive using the News Search box (search terms MyFerryLink, SeaFrance etc.). MyFerryLink is currently waiting to hear whether the competition authorities on both sides of the Channel will amend its ruling and lift present restrictions to allow the ferry operator to begin sailings with the Nord Pas de Calais ferry, which will run as a slow shuttle, in addition to freight services through the tunnel.

In the meantime Eurotunnel waits for payment for its loss of earnings as the ‘striking ferry workers’ as described in the main media called them, occupied the ships, burnt tyres on the rail tracks and generally disrupted the Port of Calais and surrounds. Judging from the history of this dispute it may be a long wait.