SNCM - Societe Nationale Corse Mediterranee with currently nine ships, had the monopoly of France-Corsica routes until around ten years ago, but no longer. They have built up large debts and continue to make losses while sharing a lifeline subsidy to carry 40% of the available traffic with CMN – Compagnie Meridionale de Navigation, who have four ships, and which apparently is profitable. The rest of the trade has been taken by the Italian-French company Corsica Ferries which also serves Sardinia and is described as a ‘budget’ operator.
SNCM is jointly owned by a French state owned holding company and Veolia, the multi-national Paris based service company. Veolia wants out of transport, especially ferries, to focus on more profi table businesses but its partners can’t agree as long as there are continuing losses and possible repayment of illegal subsidies from the French government. There are private operators wanting to buy into SNCM, including Norwegian interests and Baja Ferries of Mexico, but no-one wants to be liable for the debts. None of the existing parties will put any more money into SNCM so time is running out.
Many of the jobs are in the politically volatile city of Marseille, and the trades unions rather than a sell-off want the company to order new gas fuelled ships, and from French yards too, as did Brittany ferries recently. It is indeed a fine mess and will not be resolved without some major compromises between the shareholders, the trades unions and probably the EU Commission.
Veolia is one of those recently arrived trans-national global ‘service’ companies and another is GB based Serco. If the former is trying to leave shipping Serco is expanding into it and as expected last year they have been given an eight year contract jointly with the Swedish Company Strömma Tourism & Maritime (who also run the Göta Canal packets) to manage some of the Stockholm City and archipelago passenger routes. Initially it would appear to be the four Djurgården ferries which shuttle across the inner harbour of Stockholm on behalf of Stockholm County Council owned ferry company Waxholms Ångfartygs. According to the latter’s website, Waxholm’s twenty or so vessels are all run by contractors.