Sunday, February 8, 2015

RoRo Freight and Passenger Ferry Epic Continues with Yet Another Appeal

French Workers Still Fighting for Their Future in the British Courts
Shipping News Feature

UK – FRANCE – Dead but simply won’t lie down, that’d probably be the best description of Eurotunnel’s cross Channel ferry service MyFerryLink. Despite the company being put up for sale following the rejection last month by the British authorities as to the legality of the RoRo freight and passenger service, the seemingly endless claims from France that the company was built upon a bankrupt entity which had ceased trading, SeaFrance, are set to continue after the Société Coopérative de Production SeaFrance S.A. (SCOP) was this week granted permission for an expedited appeal by the Court.

Following the ‘final’ judgement by the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) last month which was welcomed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Eurotunnel announced it was giving up the fight to maintain services both by rail under the Channel and using surface vessels, the ownership of the ferry and subsea services having been deemed uncompetitive with the company having too large a share of the market.

SCOP largely consists of ex SeaFrance employees who manage the Dover – Calais vessels on behalf of Eurotunnel and argue that the initial purchase of SeaFrance assets was a legal takeover of an entity which had ceased trading rather than a merger, the detail upon which the case depended. Should SCOP win the appeal it may be that Eurotunnel drops its plans to sell but some believe there may be yet another twist in this particular tale. SeaFrance received an amount of state assistance when it previously restructured and it would be no great surprise if a French group, with strong government links, were to make a bid for the company.

This however is merely speculation at this stage, the loss of the MyFerryLink service might seem advantageous to the UK authorities however the immediate effect, should the ships be withdrawn from service, will simply mean an immediate reduction in competition, rather than the hoped for result. Who steps in and fills the gap remains a matter of conjecture. Eurotunnel, having ordered new rolling stock just last month, appears to believe that for it at least, the game is over.