Ferry wars ahead?
The Dover to Calais ferry route has been a hot topic for discussion amongst many since the liquidation of major player, SeaFrance in January. The first major change for the route was the introduction of a DFDS Seaways and partner LD Lines service which runs five times per day, this was expected by many and now further change is on the horizon.
Eurotunnel, which operates the Channel Tunnel and already holds a large proportion of the Dover to Calais market appears to be considering purchasing three of the ships which were owned by SeaFrance which would increase their current share of the market. But what exactly would this mean?
The Eurotunnel ferry service would boast the French flag and compete against P&O Ferries and the DFDS and LD Lines services as well as working together with the Channel Tunnel. Having control of the three ships would mean that Eurotunnel would have the option to move passengers onto a ferry service in peak times when capacity is reaching the limit or when issues cause the Channel Tunnel to close for a period of time for a discounted price to the customer. Reports from Eurotunnel have also suggested the ferries would carry hazardous freight which is unable to use the tunnel and non-time sensitive goods, making both the Channel Tunnel and the ships more effective with the services offered.
Eurotunnel plan on purchasing the three ships and then leasing them out to another shipping company as ultimately their aim is not to become “part of a big shipping company” however as Eurotunnel’s previous bid for the ships with the intention of saving all of SeaFrance’s 800 jobs was rejected only time will tell whether this next bid will be successful. The new bid is predicted to create around 500 jobs and the majority of these would be in Kent, this is an excellent boost for the industry especially as many former SeaFrance employees were hired by DFDS and LD Lines.
With demand for ferries to France growing rapidly the extra capacity the three ships would provide is much needed and the competition helps keep ferry prices low!