MyFerryLink, the newest operator on the Channel is a French worker co-op, or SCOP (Societe Co-Operative et Participative) which started operations from Calais to Dover on August 20th operating 10 crossings per day.
They are using the Rodin and the Berlioz, two identical modern passenger ferries taking up to 700 cars and 1,900 passengers each. After 11 months of inactivity since SeaFrance went into liquidation, the ferries have been bought back from the French Government liquidators by EuroTunnel and leased to a newly formed worker co-operative put together by the former employees of Sea-France. The new workforce of 350 in France and 50 in the UK is 98% former Sea-France staff.
The decision to allow Eurotunnel to purchase the three former SeaFrance vessels from the liquidator and lease them back to the MyFerryLink co operative, which paved the way for the launch of the new service, was met with fierce criticism by rival operators P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways, who argue that EuroTunnel now has an unfair share of the already competitive Dover Strait traffic, even though it doesn’t operate these ferries. P&O has invested £300m in two new superferries and still has the major share of the cross-channel ferry route. P&O spokesman Brian Rees confirmed they had been in touch with the OFT. “There is something a little unusual about the biggest player in the market buying the assets of a former competitor. We need reassurance that this isn’t going to be unfair competition.”
Following criticism of service standards on the old SeaFrance operation, Jeam-Michel Giguet, Chief Executive of MyFerryLink stated to the French press that “This isn’t like the old Sea-France. From now on we will be a customer focussed operation. I can assure our future customers that whilst we may have a smaller fleet than before, they will be ships of quality”. He went on to explain that MyFerrylink is aiming to get between 8% and 10% of cross channel passenger traffic and between 12% and 14% of freight. This will put the co-operative society “into profit by 2014”.
The Rodin was built in 2001 by Aker Finyards in Finland, and the Berlioz was built in 2005 by Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St Nazaire. They are being joined this month by the Nord-pas de Calais which will handle freight only. All the ships will sail under the French flag, ensuring high standards of safety scrutiny and regulation.
Robin Wilkins, former UK General Manager of SeaFrance, is spearheading the Dover side of the MyFerryLink operation as UK Managing Director. He admitted it was not the best time of the year to launch a new service, but timing had been out of the co-operative’s control. He expected the new service, which would have a distinctive French flavour, to appeal to passenger and freight customers and he was excited by the opportunity to create something new and different.
“I’m looking forward to a reliable high quality service we can take to the market with complete confidence,” he said. “It’s nice to have a blend of both some of the staff that were in the previous company and some newcomers and I think we’re going to be very successful. It will take time, it’s a long-term project, but I would like to pilot it through the opening phase of its existence.”
The Port of Dover also welcomed the return the Berlioz, Rodin and Nord-pas de Calais back to the port. In a ceremony on Aug 20th, Tim Waggott, Director of Business and Support Services at the Port of Dover presented Jean-Michel Giguet, Chief Executive of MyFerryLink, with a plaque in honour of the inaugural channel crossings of the Berlioz and Rodin under the new brand. “We warmly welcome the three vessels back to the Port of Dover and congratulate MyFerryLink on their new venture,” said Waggott.
If you want to book with the only co-operative operator on the Channel, or for information about a crossing or trip, contact 0844 2482 100 or go to www.myferrylink.com