Monday, September 22, 2014

RoRo Freight and Passenger Short Sea Service Row Hots Up

Day of Judgement Looms for Eurotunnel and Subsidiary MyFerryLink
Shipping News Feature

UK – FRANCE – Things are hotting up in the row between Groupe Eurotunnel and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which has now published its final version of the Order which will ban the company running its MyFerryLink services between Dover and Calais, should the latest appeal to persist with the business be rejected. MyFerryLink runs RoRo freight and passenger services having acquired the assets of the defunct SeaFrance company as detailed here previously.

The Order will of course not take effect until the decision on the appeal has been made and this is now scheduled to take place at the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) on Monday the 24th November 2014 with two days set aside to hear the arguments. This of course leaves MyFerryLink in an invidious position, being unable to negotiate future contracts, particularly with major freight carriers, with the very real possibility that it will have to cease trading just six months after an unfavourable judgement by the Tribunal.

A statement from Groupe Eurotunnel says that the adopted position of the CMA confirms in its opinion the unalterable determination of the CMA to bring to an end the activities of MyFerryLink and goes on to say Groupe Eurotunnel strongly regrets the position that the CMA holds and its inevitable consequences.

The press release has the note of a beaten man awaiting sentence, Groupe Eurotunnel reiterates that, in its view, acquiring assets in an open auction through the Paris Commercial Court, can in no way be compared to the purchase of the activities of SeaFrance, as the CMA interprets it. Entrusting the operation of the ferries to maritime workers, for all that many had previously worked for SeaFrance, regrouped into an independent workers co-operative (SCOP), Eurotunnel says is neither illogical nor reprehensible.

For its part the CMA is sticking with the argument that the acquisition of SeaFrance assets constituted a merger as it was bought as ‘an enterprise’ by Eurotunnel and SCOP and therefore the original judgement to order closure as arrived at by the now defunct Competition Commission was correct, a decision that was latterly overturned, albeit temporarily, by the CAT itself.

The CMA argues that the current situation may be expected to result in a lessening of competition in both passenger and freight short sea markets, a claim Eurotunnel would strongly reject saying there were now more and cheaper available spaces for both categories with the presence of MyFerryLink in the market.