SeaFrance off the waves – for now

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Legal battle for troubled operator results in failure to resume services after liquidation order

SeaFrance has failed to resume its Dover to Calais services. The troubled firm was due to restart its services on Friday, November 18 after a 48 hour suspension, and said it would continue until at least the end of January 2012, as the firm was given until January 28 to attract buyers after going into administration in June 2011. Reports that SeaFrance only has sufficient cashflow to trade until December 15, 2011, remained unconfirmed as CBW went to press.

However management of the company has been placed under control of administrators after rising tensions between management and staff meant safety of vessels, staff and property could not be properly guaranteed. SeaFrance management reported some union leaders had even threatened to sink vessels.

An employee co-operative made one of two offers to take over the stricken company, the other being a €5m combined offer from competitors DFDS and LD lines, but a French court ruled both offers were too low. SeaFrance’s main staff union, CFDT, was angered by the developments, claiming management was deliberately sabotaging the co-operative bid with an illegal lockout.

Rival company P&O, which runs 23 daily crossings of the channel, had also made a complaint to the European Commission against offers below the market value of SeaFrance. P&O recently stepped up services to absorb some of the passengers displaced by the suspended SeaFrance services.

A statement on the SeaFrance website reads: “The management of the company has today been placed under the control of the administrators. They have decided commercial activities of the company will resume as soon as the satisfactory operation of the ships can be assured.

“We are conscious of the inconvenience this situation is causing and we apologise for this. We will keep you informed of any changes in the present situation.”