Feature, Freight News, Sea

Eurotunnel still interested in Seafrance ships

[ March 2, 2012   //   ]

Euro tunnel DoverEurotunnel has reiterated its interest in buying three ships that belonged to the defunct Seafrance operation, said chairman and CEO Jacques Gounon. In a press conference to announce the Channel Tunnel operator’s annualresults, he said that the three ships – the Berlioz, the Rodin and the freighter Nord Pas de Calais were currently in the hands of a broker which had set an pril deadline to sell the vessels.

If it purchased the ships, Eurotunnel would rent them to an operating company set up by former Seafrance employees. This “Chinese wall” would, he said, help keep Eurotunnel within competition laws.

A revitalised Seafrance would cater to niche markets, with Eurotunnel continuing to provide a premium service, he said. The freighter vessel would in particular carry larger mega-trailers that could not be fitted on board Eurotunnel’s freight shuttles.

Meanwhile, Eurotunnel was planning to return a mothballed car shuttle to service and was also looking to boost the speed of the shuttle fleet from 140kmph (87mph) to 160kmph (100mph), mainly to keep pace with the Eurostar express passenger trains and so boost capacity through the tunnel. The freight shuttles may also be accelerated, although their 2,400-tonne would make this speed more difficult to achieve.

Eurotunnel was also working to remove the ‘pagoda’ structures on its freight shuttle cars to simplify loading and unloading. To do this, it would have to find a way of isolating the overhead power supplies in the loading area and Gournon said he hoped soon that he would be able to convince the intergovernmental commission that governs tunnel operations that this could be achieved. This in turn would allow freight shuttle frequencies to be increased.

Meanwhile, Eurotunnel was looking with interest at plans for the Autoroute Ferrovaire Atlantique plan for longer distance ‘rolling motorway’ type shuttles (see FBJ 06 2011, page 1) and the Carex plan for high speed parcels trains, although he stressed that these were both long-term projects.

Eurotunnel meanwhile announced a doubling of its proposed dividend to 8 euro cents. Trading profit increased by 40% to €247 million and net profit was €11 million.


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