Staff representatives of SCOP-SeaFrance, Eurotunnel and DFDS, with the assistance of The French transport minister Alain Vidalies, reached an agreement on 31st August concerning the release of the Cross-Channel ferries Rodin and Berlioz thus signalling the end of a wrangle that has dragged on for several months now. The 33,796gt/2001 built Rodin and 33,940gt/2005 built Berlioz had been blockaded and occupied in Calais since 29th June with the militant occupying crews also causing damage aboard the vessels.
The imprisonment of the ships by SCOP-SeaFrance personnel was in protest at job losses caused by the operation of the ships passing to DFDS. As part of the latter agreement, DFDS committed to employ 202 former employees in its French organisation. Under the deal, DFDS would also pay additional compensation to the employees that were made redundant in January. The ships were finally handed over to DFDS on 2nd September and a visit to the Rodin by a delegation made up of a Maritime assessor, two Bailiffs, two Fleet Managers from DFDS, members of the SCOP SeaFrance workers co-operative and a Eurotunnel official, confirmed that the vessel had suffered considerable damage in seating areas during its occupation, with upholstery slashed. A PA system amplifier, a TV and two decorative paintings are reported missing while the screens of cash registers have been smashed.
The word “ransacked” was used to describe the ship’s disgraceful condition. A total of 1,723 seats, whose value is estimated at between €300 and €500 each, are slashed and must be replaced. Ultimately, the bill could be around €2 million. The cost of repairs will be taken from funds set aside for the liquidation of the Seafrance-SCOP so all members will suffer at the hands of a minority. It is understood that the perpetrators will be confronted in due course. Perhaps the most bizarre twist to this saga is that some of those involved in the blockades may yet form part of the 202 employed by DFDS, a company that the protestors fought so hard against with massive disruption and expense caused to thousands of travellers and companies alike.
The Rodin and Berlioz should be in service for DFDS on the Dover-Calais service before the end of 2015, thus spelling the end of the Malo Seaways deployment to the Dover Straits. Before the agreement to end this action was reached, Calais was again blockaded as part of this mindless campaign on 30th/31st August, right in the middle of the Bank Holiday weekend. As a result all other ferry services linking Belgium, Holland and France to the UK have seen a marked increase in traffic. At the time of writing those at the centre of all the protests were still threatening disruption whilst, at the same time, “apologising” for the chaos caused by their actions.
The Rodin was released from her imprisonment in Calais by tugs on 13th September and taken to Dunkirk for overhaul ahead of her new life with DFDS (above). The Berlioz followed early the next morning with the tugs Thorax and Triton used for both moves. Finally, all berths at Calais are usable again.
The Rodin and the Berlioz were officially handed over to the DFDS group in Dunkirk on 16th September, under a bareboat charter agreement in accordance with the contract signed at the start of June 2015. As a result of damage inflicted upon the ships whilst they were under the care of the liquidator of the SCOP SeaFrance, a period of repairs will be necessary. With regard to any outstanding debts, the SCOP SeaFrance owes MyFerryLink €22.7 million, of which €4.8 million are penalties for late hand-over of the ships, with the remainder relating to loss of revenue and repairs to the ships. Conversely, MyFerryLink owes the SCOP SeaFrance €3.5 million for the balance of the sale of capacity, of which €600,000 has been paid under the terms of the protocol which brought an end to the conflict and enabled the return of the ships by the liquidator.