A formal European Commission investigation has started into SeaFrance with particular focus on whether parent SNCM French Railways’ €223 million recapitalisation plan for the troubled English Channel ferry operator is compatible with European Union rules on state aid.

SeaFrance currently use multi-purpose ferries SeaFrance Berlioz (2005/33,940gt), SeaFrance Moliere (2002/30,285gt) and SeaFrance Rodin (2001/33,796gt) and freight ro-ro vessel SeaFrance Nord Pas-de-Calais (1987/7,236gt) between Calais and Dover and the Commission is considering whether the company can realistically become viable in the long term without public support. However, it was reported at the beginning of July that as a further economy measure, SeaFrance Nord Pas-de-Calais is to be withdrawn with 80 seafarers losing their jobs.

Vice-president for competition, Joaquín Almunia, said the EC investigation gives third parties the opportunity to comment and does not pre-judge the outcome of the procedure. In August last year the Commission authorised a credit line for between €40 million and €70 million as rescue aid for SeaFrance on condition that the French authorities submitted, within six months, a restructuring plan demonstrating the firm’s future viability.

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