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Issue 5 2015 - Freight Business Journal


Eurotunnel and ports fall out over public funding

A legal row has broken out between Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel and the ports of Calais and Boulogne, along with local government bodies. It follows Eurotunnel’s filing on 10 April of an appeal at the Lille Administrative Court that sought to cancel public funding for the Calais Port 2015 project. Now,


representatives of the two ports have responded in an open letter to Eurotunnel shareholders. In it, Pas- de-Calais senator Daniel Percheron, member of Parliament Yann Capet, president of the Pas-de-Calais General Council Michel Dagbert and president of the Scoiete d’Exploitation des Ports du Detroit (essentially the ports on the Calais-Boulogne Straits)

argue that for the scheme is not

funding illegal.

They accuse Eurotunnel Group chairman Jacques Gounon of “misleading and false information”, in a letter to shareholders on 1 June. They argue that a figure of €270m of public subsidies as coming entirely from the Nord-Pas de

Calais region is “simply untrue” and includes an expected €100m contribution from the EU, and a similar amount from the French state. The Calais Region subsidy is only €43m, they say. Public funding “is more than

usual for such an operation and that the €270m share of the total of €900m “is actually particularly low for a port infrastructure” and well below other similar

recent port

projects. There has been no loan

guarantee by the region, and funding of Calais Port 2015 “is strictly based on a market rate that was negotiated with financial institutions. They also say that Gounon

was at one stage a stakeholder in the project and participated in the drafting of interim offers and raised no objections then. They also warn that the

consortium behind the Calais Port 2015 project could seek compensation from Eurotunnel Group if it were to undermine the project. In a press statement, Jean-

Marc Puissesseau said: “Two actors such as the Port of Calais

and Eurotunnel cannot oppose each other, much less on the basis of false information. Calais Port 2015 will not allow any price


and does not threaten the competitiveness of Eurotunnel. “Public

support for an

infrastructure of general interest such as the Port of Calais is absolutely usual for this type of project, as are the financial clauses, the public service delegation contract

and the proposed market rates of the project. ...We call on Eurotunnel’s shareholders to

convince Mr Gounon

to withdraw his appeal in order to fully enable the complementarity of these two major players.” Eurotunnel has not

responded directly to the claims in the letter. However, industry sources suggest that while it has no objection to the plans to create more

warehouse and logistics facilities in Calais – which would benefit its freight shuttles along with the ferries – it does take issue with the level of guarantees being made to promoters which could lead to new water-borne services abstracting business. In particular, it is concerned over plans unveiled by the VIIA Britannica French Railways subsidiary to operate trailer- carrying rail services from the

Spanish-French border by the end of the year. As these would operate direct into the port to Calais, the vast majority of the traffic would move across the Channel on the ferries. Eurotunnel is also reported

to be somewhat bemused by the very public stance taken by the Calais consortium and its tactics of writing directly to its shareholders, rather than talking to the judge involved in the case.

MyFerryLink sale goes through

Eurotunnel formally accepted DFDS’ offer for the ferries Rodin and Berlioz operated by its soon to be wound up MyFerryLink subsidiary on 22 June. The Danish-owned operator said it would enter into long-term bareboat charter agreements for the two ships from 2 July, and the two companies have also entered into an agreement giving Eurotunnel the right to require DFDS to purchase the ships, up to mid-2017. The administrators of


SCOP-SeaFrance cooperative that

Eurotunnel anticipates that ran MyFerryLink have

meanwhile launched a sales process for all or part of the venture. Eurotunnel pointed out in a statement that the sale of SCOP SeaFrance, which was decided upon by the judicially appointed Administrators (AJ) does not include the ships, which were owned by Eurotunnel Group but solely SCOP’s limited assets. Nor is MyFerryLink the employer of the SCOP SeaFrance staff.

the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should not object as it will lead to two maritime operators of equal importance. Moreover, the sale should ensure that the activity remains in Calais, unlike the sale of the SeaFrance Moliere by MyFerryLink’s predecessor, Le Credit Lyonnais, which ended up being operated in the Irish Sea. Eurotunnel also said it regrets that the SCOP SeaFrance

workers’ cooperative which was the actual owner and operator of MyFerryLink has not had the support it needed to be able to present a takeover proposal. However, Eurotunnel Group

itself hopes to continue to be allowed by the competition authorities to operate the Nord Pas de Calais freight ferry, the Eurotunnel Group, in order to maintain its transport operations in coordination with the Fixed Link (see separate story).

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