Down on the English Channel the fate of MyFerryLink’s three ships and the 500 plus jobs is still looking distinctly gloomy.
Legal challenges to the UK Government’s competition agency ruling are in prospect but that will be a slow and expensive business. How the company can operate effectively meantime, is a major headache.
A possible glimmer of light was extinguished when their proposal to operate the Newhaven-Dieppe link was rejected by those at the helm of that troubled route. The Dieppe service has been subsidised by the General Council of Seine-Maritime (CGSM) with €231 million of public money over ten years.
According to LD Lines, who are running the contract in harness with DFDS, they have recently managed to reduce the annual public subsidy for the service from €14.5 million to €13.8 million while operating two round trips daily carrying over 230,000 passengers and growing freight traffic 5%. The French authorities are finding it ever harder to justify these subsidies. They own the port of Newhaven and it must be tempting to cut their losses and realise their assets in the form of the port property and the two ships designed for the route under the Transmanche brand, Côte d’Albatre and Seven Sisters 18,425,’06, both built at Vigo by Hijos De J, Barreras.
So next year might see the loss of two French controlled operators. At the same time there is talk of major investment in Calais which might focus on expanding the short sea crossing, partly driven by the high cost to the ferries of the soon to be compulsory low sulphur fuels. Economising on fuel might imply more shorter crossings and fewer long ones. Côte d’Albatre and Seven Sisters are handy sized vessels but maybe rather small and therefore expensive to operate on the central route but might prove of value elsewhere.