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K2rockall

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I am so disappointed by this. MFL were doing most things right, I really hope someone steps in (maybe BF!) to give them enough financing to keep going as having used all 3 operators I would always choose MFL. Worry now is that they will lose the big yearly freight contracts which maybe be the death knell.

 

Sad example of how big business in the shape of DFDS and P&O can have influence over the govt. From what I have read there is absolutely zero evidence that Eurotunnel was wanting to profit from the MFL venture, more like they wanted to save the jobs but who knows.

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Because there's no such thing as "free trade" in Europe, or in fact the world. There's rules, tariffs, limits etc everywhere.

 

Essentially it sounds silly, 3 ferry operators plus a tunnel should be better for competition than 2 ferry operators and a tunnel. But from what I've read their worry is that it could be 1 ferry operator (P&O) and 1 tunnel unless overcapacity is cut.

 

The competition watchdog are probably right. There's currently too much competition to be viable, especially to Calais as a destination. Hearing that DFDS would pull off wouldn't be surprising because they are in the weakest position; and they're becoming very adept at closing routes (I made that statement about a year ago and got blasted, they've since closed Harwich-Esbjerg and Portsmouth-Le Havre, so maintain that I was not being disengenuous and was entirely right). Was Eurotunnel trying to compete other ferry operators out of the market? Possibly but we don't know and to say so would be libel (it's not libel to say DFDS go round closing routes because they do).

 

I've always been a bit perplexed by Dover-Calais recently though. The tunnel holds undoubtably the lion's share, but P&O are still running a service not far off the pre-tunnel days in the early 1990s with 5 ships (slightly less sailings now but bigger ships). Put DFDS and MFL together and it's still bigger than the Stena Sealink / Sealink SNAT partnership from the same period. Yet the tunnel has creamed the majority off. And the ferries aren't charging anything like they did pre-tunnel days, in fact the tunnel now rarely charges what the ferries' published tariff in the 90s was. Without doubt overall traffic volumes have grown, but here's what's counter-intuative at first glance in a really competitive market is that the dominant operator (Eurotunnel) should be the cheapest because they can undercut and they're looking for volume. In fact, the tunnel is the most expensive of the 4 operators to get across. That would indicate that whilst there's a price war with the ferries because of overcapacity on the water, that Eurotunnel doesn't seem to play the game to the same extent, that demand for the tunnel outstrips supply (perhaps the ferries are artificially holding Eurotunnel back from the price they want to charge) which is why they remain consistently more expensive. Ask the average Joe in the street these days about how you get to Calais, and I bet the tunnel would be the most common answer.

 

So could Eurotunnel sell or transfer the ships to a new owner?

 

Don't see why not as the comment seemed to be that Eurotunnel was dominating the route by the combination of surface and subterranean options. The ruling was that Eurotunnel must not own the ships and operate them on that route. So that would imply they could own the ships, just that they are banned from arriving at Dover. But that Eurotunnel have said today they are going to sell the ships says that this is the most likely outcome: http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articl...lator-ban.html

 

Who could they sell it to and keep the SCOP operating it?

 

Brittany Ferries. Since we're here why not, whilst the operating company doesn't seem flush with cash those farmers co-ops and finance companies that own BF's ships make healthy amounts of cash from the lease fees from BAI. They could buy the MFL ships as in a way it fits with their co-op origins. Branded MFL or Brittany Ferries, or joint branded? And it's still fully French so that's the national price intact (let's be honest, Eurotunnel is now a French company, Britain got screwed for our part in building it, we soon won't own any of Eurostar either). My personal opinion is that it would be horrific for the traveller; BF would whack up the fares, Eurotunnel would sieze the opportunity to do the same and then so would P&O who would probably also get rid of the Burgundy (no great shame!) to cut capacity more and drive up prices higher still. As an indication, I have a Sealink Stena brochure from 1992 to hand and the price then was £249 for a car and passengers to Calais; using the BoE inflation calculator that is £451 in 2013 money; shows just how much prices have dropped in real and inflation adjusted terms, but where they could end up going back to. So clearly the prices now are too cheap, everyone knows £35 is too cheap, but that is a very big adjustment to make up to that level of price. And higher fares at Calais would push the fares to Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, St Malo, Roscoff, Santander and Bilbao even higher. I know that won't go down well on here, but like DFDS' form at closing routes, BF have form at hiking up prices.

 

DFDS. Well they'd need crews and they don't have much left on Dover-Calais now, just the Calais Seaways and nothing else yet announced to join it. Take over MFL, rebrand it as DFDS and run Calais and Dunkerque as different operating companies but with the joint marketing. A merger/combination seems a likely scenario. 2 fairly equally sized ferry operators going against the tunnel.

 

Stena Line. They've got history at buying up existing routes and always seem to be astute with an opportunity. They've got cash and whilst a couple of years ago they said they'd not touch the Channel again in any way shape or form, look what sails into Cherbourg three times a week! They have experience at buying routes and integrating the crews into Stena, take the Liverpool-Belfast route, Rosslare-Cherbourg and their recent acquisitions in the Baltic to Trelleborg amongst other destinations. The German half of the Rostock/Sassnitz operations remain German so no reason they couldn't do it with the French; after all Stena Parisien was French crewed (taking on the crews from Sealink SNAT that operated the Dieppe route who weren't militant strikers) and that worked well until the tunnel came along. Unlike back in the 1990s, Stena would prove some serious competition for P&O - in fact would go so far as to say they'd knock P&O's socks off this time around - and may well sense an opportunity to get back onto the prime Channel route that is unlikely to present itself in this way again.

 

A ship owning company, leasing company or VC. Again why not. If the SCOP can show that they are turning profit and running an operation that bears little resemblence to SeaFrance to an investor, and prove that their success is not down to involvement either financially or operationally, in terms of operating standards, then they could go it alone.

Edited by Seashore

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Too much competition can never be a bad thing, because the public will vote with their feet and the operator with the worst offering will lose out. I think this is probably currently DFDS.

 

I hope DFDS aren't the ones who buy them, because DFDS is a very large, corporate company and that comes through in the onboard experience. MFL/SeaFrance/SCOP is a much more friendly, customer orientated atmosphere.

 

If BF's farmers can raise the cash, MFL would be a perfect way to break into the Dover-Calais market with an existing and semi-profitable foothold, win favour with the french government and win good press in France for saving so many jobs. Win win for everyone really.

 

The CMA appeared to ignore the fact that the emission regulations and resultant rising prices are likely to push more traffic onto Dover-Calais short sea and away from the longer routes. Another reason for BF to break into this market, actually!

 

I have never understood how anyone could choose the tunnel over the ships. Ok, so it's a bit quicker, but the ships give a much better travel experience, fresh air and the like. I think the operators maybe need to focus their marketing on reasons to choose the ferries OVER the tunnel, that might help them regain some market share. I realise on a ship forum we're all quite biased :D

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Given a level playing field I would always choose the ferry and agree that MFL is my operator of choice. I have used the tunnel shuttle only 12 times in the last 10 years - the most recent being on New Years Day this year. On every occasion my trip from Folkestone has been impeccable, but, on every occasion, I have been told on arrival at Calais that my booked return time is not available and that I should go to the terminal for a couple of hours. When there I don't spend money - not finding anything worthwhile to spend money on - but is this some sort of agreement that they have with the tenants to channel people into the terminal? 12 out of 12 is a fairly compelling statistic.

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I have never understood how anyone could choose the tunnel over the ships.

 

Basically it is because lots and lots of people don't like something that rolls about beneath their feet and insofar as they have seen pictures on TV it's usually horror stories of people being trapped on plunging ferries when the Port of Dover is closed due to bad weather.

 

Fact is that a majority of the population don't like ships much!

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Indeed, plus after the experiences on the rocade this summer playing 'try not to run over the world be illegal immigrant', my mother has vowed always to take the tunnel whenever we go that way again. The tunnel - when it works - is very efficient and easy, I cannot dispute that. However, on long journeys (Gloucestershire -> Paris) that we've driven in a day, the ferry does make a pleasant break for the same seat in the same metal box!

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Am personally gutted with the decision. I was always a SeaFrance fan back in the day and think that MFL offered a personal service which just isn't there with the competitors.

 

P&O ships are like motorway service stations on the water, especially the Sprit sisters. Massively inflated prices in the self service restaurants (2 sausages, chips and peas for £9 if I recall ) and everything seems to be about how much money they can extract from you.

 

DFDS are your typical Danish experience, no flair and in all honesty quite tatty and down at heel onboard.

 

I hope MFL are able to appeal again and failing that, a new buyer is found that protects the jobs. Don't forget, unlike the other 2, MFL is run by its workers.

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Too much competition can never be a bad thing, because the public will vote with their feet and the operator with the worst offering will lose out.

 

 

Too much competition can be a bad thing.The market picks the best bits and leaves the unprofitable (but necessary to the needs of the public) alone.The Post Office is typical of this.The profitable parts have been sold off leaving the state to fund the rest.

To control a market ,especially the ferry business,which is not in the best economic market at the moment, is not easy, but some controls are needed to protect the public's interests and services.

Edited by imprimerie

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Too much competition can never be a bad thing, because the public will vote with their feet and the operator with the worst offering will lose out.

 

 

Too much competition can be a bad thing.The market picks the best bits and leaves the unprofitable (but necessary to the needs of the public) alone.The Post Office is typical of this.The profitable parts have been sold off leaving the state to fund the rest.

To control a market ,especially the ferry business,which is not in the best economic market at the moment, is not easy, but some controls are needed to protect the public's interests and services.

 

Exactly imprimerie, to the postal service you can add rural bus services and a whole host of other services that many would consider essential that have been sacrificed in the pursuit the fallacy that competition is always a good thing.

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Perhaps I should have said that you can't have too much competition at Dover-Calais. I am in fact a great supporter of nationalised buses, trains, postal service and the like.

 

More companies should be run on the John Lewis and SCOP model; a company will always work better when the workers share in the success of what they are working for.

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Reported in the paper today that the Dover - France Market is growing at 12 percent. Coupled With the removal of the superfast ship operating for DFDS on the Calais run, there must be upward movement in prices ?

I wonder who Jo public, booking their summer holiday, will pick to cross from Dover ?

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DFDS are going to have Calais Seaways away for a prolonged period as well. In a DFDS newsletter this week says she is going for a replacement engine. No mention of where, when or what will cover it. Unless they bring something else in then P&O will have a monopoly for that period.

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What annoys me is we have a "euro tunnel" and you have to get on a train in London to get to Euro land , why is their not a direct link from Newcastle,Glasgow etc , I know that's not directly a ferry question but I still feel it's releated to the topic.

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Originally there were plans to run Eurostar type trains from other parts of Britain. I think there was even a plan to run sleepers? I am sure that some one with more rail knowledge will be along.....

I did travel on an Eurostar type train back from, I think, York. I remember the guard telling me it was surplus Eurostar stock.....

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Originally there were plans to run Eurostar type trains from other parts of Britain. I think there was even a plan to run sleepers? I am sure that some one with more rail knowledge will be along.....

I did travel on an Eurostar type train back from, I think, York. I remember the guard telling me it was surplus Eurostar stock.....

 

 

Regional Eurostar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_Eurostar) trains were shelved (although, as you pointed out, a few sets did appear back for GNER on the East Coast Main Line when they needed extra stock, now they serve as TGVs in France (possibly withdrawn?) - the pic on wikipedia is a GNER set). Night Star - the sleeper Eurostars have a torrid history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightstar_%28train%29) and the little stock that was made now operates in Canada.

 

Economics and border controls killed these services. Passengers would have had to go through customs and border controls somewhere en-route (this problem is still rearing its head again - the new Marseille /Avignon Eurostar service and the proposed routes from Amsterddam and Cologne with DB would have to disembark at Lille, go through customs and security whilst the train is searched and then load up again - takes about an hour). Lack of demand, fragmentation of UK railways, stupidly over-specified stock - the project was sadly doomed.

 

Back to the ferries... I was never a Sea France fan, and I do, personally, like the P&O boats, particularly the two Spirit new builds - nice quiet lounges, nice restaurants. But, I'd love to see a Stena return to the route - they, like BF, have a knack of bringing a little something special to a route and changing the game. Sadly I don't think they will. Lord knows what goes through the minds of the top brass at DFDS, but we could go to a one company operation which is never an entirely good thing!

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Not to sure of the legal standing, but are MFL only stopped on Dover-Calais. Could they not move to Ramsgate, if the ships fit, and run to Calais or Vlissingen/Hook of Holland?

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Initially I read "Dover", as the UK authorities have no juristiction over the French ports. Whilst in France there is a choice in the Pas-de-Calais area - Calais, Boulogne, Dunkerque - in the UK it's only really Dover.

 

Ramsgate would add a bit to the steaming time and it's not really suitable for ships of the size of Rodin and Berlioz. What is now Calais Seaways used to ground quite frequently at low tide at Ramsgate and I was on her once when as Prins Filip she did; just sat there for a bit churning away. The MFL pair are 20% larger in tonnage.

 

The other issue is traffic. Most people think of Dover as a ferry port. And where do people go to book travel days? Travel agents - no. Pick up ferry company brochures - no. Call a ferry company they have used for years - no. They go onto Google and search "dover to calais ferry" and unless you have a website all about Dover to Calais ferries, Google isn't going to rank you very highly (search marketing and ecommerce is a big element of what I do as a day job).

 

I'd imagine the competition authorities would just turn their attention to stopping them go into Ramsgate anyway.

 

Looking at the announcement, Eurotunnel have said they WILL sell it, so no debate about it there. But they have said they will sell the ships and the whole business so it looks like it will continue on.

 

If I had £100 to bet, I'd put £50 on Stena getting it, £30 on DFDS, £10 on Brittany Ferries and £5 on venture capital and £5 on Tallink.

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