MyFerryLink set to close within next 9 days.
DFDS have announced today that Groupe Eurotunnel (GET) have formally accepted their offer for the MyFerryLink ships Rodin and Berlioz. This follows the news earlier this month that the parties had entered a binding agreement for the sale of the ships. DFDS have stated that the agreement is for a longterm bareboat charter commencing July the 2nd this year, but includes a put option which allows Eurotunnel to require DFDS to purchase both ships outright. However, should DFDS be required to purchase the ships, the purchase price will be discounted by the amount already paid in charter fees.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the workers cooperative which operates the MyFerryLink service, SCOP-Seafrance, had been placed into administration. The current operating agreement between SCOP-Seafrance and Eurotunnel expires on July the 1st this year, and there is currently no agreement for any of the 370 ship based or 160 shore based staff to transfer to DFDS, along with the ships, on July 2nd. DFDS have stated that:
“the administrators of the SCOP-SeaFrance have launched a sales process of all or parts of the SCOP-SeaFrance and DFDS will constructively participate in this process.”
It remains to be seen how much of SCOP-SeaFrance transfers over to DFDS, and indeed if DFDS and SCOP-SeaFrance (which reputedly still has a militant union element, left over from the days of SeaFrance) can agree terms and conditions for recruitment of staff. Eurotunnel have already expressed their intention to appeal for the upcoming ban of them operating ships into Dover to be lifted so that they can operate the remaining MyFerryLink Ship, former train ferry Nord-Pas-de-Calais, “in coordination with the fixed link”. This would allow Eurotunnel to offer a service for hazardous loads which are banned from using the channel tunnel. DFDS currently operate 2 ferries between Dover and Calais, Calais Seaways (ex Prins Filip, P&OSL Aquitaine) and Malo Seaways (ex European Ambassador, Stena Nordica). The acquisition of the 2 MyFerryLink vessels will allow DFDS to operate a 4 ship operation to Calais in addition to the successful 3 ship Dunkerque operation.
With less than 2 weeks until the transfer of Rodin and Berlioz to DFDS, it is concerning that no agreement currently exists to man the vessels after transfer to DFDS. While it is possible that DFDS could man the vessels themselves without the help of the SCOP, as they did with their existing Dover vessels, this could cause unrest at Calais. DFDS are widely seen on the French side of the channel as the reason MyFerryLink where forced out of business in the first place, and there is a history of militancy by French unions when decisions “did not go their way” relating to MyFerryLink’s predecessor operators, SeaFrance and SNAT (French Sealink ships). However, the SCOP-SeaFrance also has its own problems, which could make reaching an agreement difficult. As well as being administration, there is serious disagreement within the cooperative about who should be in charge resulting in much internal conflict. An alternative SCOP is believed to be in the process of being formed, but it is not yet clear whether this will be active by the time DFDS takeover the ships.