Eurotunnel’s cross-Channel ferry link banned

Authorities in London confirmed on Tuesday that the MyFerryLink Cross-Channel ferries, that are owned by Eurotunnel, are banned from docking in the UK port of Dover. One French media outlet described the move as “a blow from Trafalgar”.

Eurotunnel's cross-Channel ferry link banned
UK authorities have banned Eurotunnel's MyFerryLink boats from docking in Dover. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority confirmed on Tuesday an earlier decision to ban Eurotunnel from running its cross-Channel ferry service MyFerryLink, that was formally Sea France.

The ban on operating the three MyFerryLink boats threatens around 600 jobs, 100 of which are in Dover and comes just before the start of the peak summer season.

French daily Le Parisien described the ban, which will not be enforced immediately, as a "blow from Trafalgar".

Eurotunnel bought the boats after SeaFrance went into administration in 2012, before re-launching the service under the name MyFerryLink.

Their grounds for taking the action is that they believe Eurotunnel has gained too big a share of the cross-Channel market, mainly due to the fact it owns the Channel Tunnel roll-on/roll-off rail service.

The UK’s Competition Commission says Eurotunnel's purchase of the Sea France boats, was more a takeover deal for a company, rather than just assets and was made to prevent rival company DFDS from buying the ferries.

The commission believes the likely outcome of Eurotunnel’s takeover of the SeaFrance boats would be price rises for passengers and freight customers on the route.

An initial decision to ban MyFerryLink was taken in June last year but it was then overturned on appeal. However Tuesday’s verdict turned the tide once more and will mean Eurotunnel likely having to sell off at least two of the ferries.

However that would need clearance from the French commercial court, which previously banned the sale of ferries.

“Since we don’t have the right to sell the ferries, they will simply be taken out of circulation and dry docked,” a Eurotunnel spokesman has said in the past.

Eurotunnel arguedsthat the UK authorities had not taken into account changes in the market since it launched the service.

“Two years after the acquisition of three ferries and following the decision of the Appeal Tribunal, which rejected the original decision by the Competition Commission, Groupe Eurotunnel submitted to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that a material change of market had occurred, based upon the 12% growth since SeaFrance ceased its operations,” a statement from the company read.

"DFDS continues to operate successfully in the market, whereas the Competition Commission's original decision was based on the premise that DFDS would rapidly be forced to exit the market," the statement added.

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Ferry runs aground at France’s Calais port

A ferry with more than 300 people on board ran aground Sunday in high winds at Calais in northern France, interrupting traffic in one of Europe's busiest passenger ports but causing no injuries.

Ferry runs aground at France's Calais port
Photo: AFP

“The vessel is stable. Port officers are looking at how to refloat it,” an official in the local administration told AFP, without giving his name.

A spokeswoman for the P&O shipping company said the ferry, The Pride of Kent, ran aground after it hit a gangway while making to leave for Dover, its destination in Britain.

There were 316 people on board — 208 of them passengers, government officials said.

Two tug boats were trying to pull the ferry free but the task was proving difficult, said an AFP correspondent at the scene.

More than nine million passengers used Calais to cross the channel in 2016, according to official numbers.

READ ALSO: Channel ferry services hit as fierce winds lash France's northern coast