SeaFrance has won permission from the court of appeal in London to challenge the Competition and Market Authority’s decision to ban MyFerryLink from operating ships between Dover and Calais. The worker co-operative, which runs the MyFerryLink operator, employs 600 people and operates up to 24 daily crossings.
The co-op was formed in 2012 by former employees of SeaFrance, which went into liquidation in November 2012. SCOP SeaFrance delivers the service on board and ashore in France and the UK. A hearing will take place at the Court of Appeal in March and the co-op could overturn the Competition Appeal tribunal’s earlier decision of 9 January.
Last year, MyFerryLink transported 400,000 trucks, 350,000 tourist vehicles and 1.5 million passengers. It is a subsidiary of Eurotunnel, which began its operations on the English Channel last August and is the newest operator on the Dover to Calais route. Eurotunnel bought assets from SeaFrance, including three ships, which now operate under the MyFerryLink brand. SCOP acts as an external subcontractor that performs services, while Eurotunnel owns the ships, derives profits and suffers any losses.
MyFerryLink does not have a say in how the co-operative is run, and SCOP cannot be involved in strategic decisions of MyFerry Link. However, the Competition and Market Authority argues the acquired assets constitute an enterprise and this means Eurotunnel has more than half the market when its rail link is taken into consideration. CMA’s January decision meant that Eurotunnel had to seek a buyer for the ferry business, which would have had to cease operating otherwise.
Jacques Gounon, chairman and chief executive of Groupe Eurotunnel, said in an official statement: “MyFerryLink is an operating and commercial success. We are proud to have succeeded where so many others have failed. Given the position of the British authorities, the future of MyFerryLink will now be determined outside the Group.”
In an interview with Mer et Marine, Raphaël Doutrebente, general director of SCOP SeaFrance, said he was certain Eurotunnel would find a buyer for MyFerryLink, but that the delay could cause troubles. He added that continuing the collaboration with SCOP SeaFrance would be one of the aspects included in negotiations with potential buyers. It is expected that SeaFrance will remain as MyFerryLink’s subcontractor whoever is the buyer.