Freight News, Sea

Updated: Ferry operator for sale: one careful owner

[ January 9, 2015   //   ]

Eurotunnel Group is to put its MyFerryLink Dover-Calais operation up for sale, following the ruling by UK competition authorities last year that the Channel Tunnel-operator should cease its water-borne operations within six months.

Eurotunnel chairman and CEO, Jacques Gounon, said that MyFerryLink had been an operating and commercial success in a sector where many others had failed, but it had failed to surmount the intransigence of the British authorities.

Groupe Eurotunnel acquired the assets of the defunct company, SeaFrance, in June 2012 and subcontracted the operation of the ferries Rodin, Berlioz and Nord-Pas-de-Calais to an independent company, SCOP SeaFrance.

Since operations began on 20 August 2012, MyFerryLink had moved 400,000 trucks and 350,000 cars.

A spokesman for Eurotunnel said that, not withstanding the recent turbulence in the ferry and short-sea market, he believed that there would be “a lot of interest” in the sale. Despite the uncertainty created by the competition probe – which had made it hard for MyFerryLink to secure longer-term freight contracts – the operator had in its short life built up a 10% market share.

While there has been retrenchment in some of the longer cross-Channel services in the face of recession and the new emission control area, this had had the effect of concentrating demand on the ‘Short Straits’ market, he said. “Eurotunnel itself is looking for a 500,000 increase in trucks, and existing capacity just cannot handle that at peak times.”

Exactly who would buy MyFerryLink is not clear. It’s highly unlikely that the competition authorities would countenance a sale to P&O Ferries, the biggest Dover-Calais ferry operator. Sale to smaller rival DFDS might be feasible from a market share perspective, but could attract adverse comment.

Eurotunnel is looking to sell the operation – for the right price – as soon as possible. Barring an appeal by SCOP SeaFrance, the ‘stop order’ would come into force in about June 2015.