Eurotunnel, operator of the undersea rail tunnel between France and the U.K., is making its debut in the shipping business with the purchase of three roll-on, roll-off ships owned by the bankrupt Sea France ferry line.
The decision of a Paris Commercial Court to accept a 65 million euro ($85.3 million) bid from Eurotunnel drew a hostile reaction from cross-channel shipping lines on the world’s busiest ro-ro freight and passenger routes.
Danish shipping line DFDS, which also bid for the ships, said it plans to ask European Union trust busters to examine the court’s decision as Eurotunnel’s market share on U.K.-France routes exceeds 40 percent, the level that usually triggers an investigation.
P&O Ferries, a subsidiary of Dubai’s DP World, said the deal raised “profound issues” for the cross-channel market.
“We shall be highlighting to the competition authorities our concern that a level playing is preserved in the interests of fair trade,” the company said.
Eurotunnel, which operates truck and train shuttles through the tunnel that opened in 1994, and has its own rail freight business, said it will lease the three ships to an independent company partly staffed by former Sea France employees.
Sea France suspended services in November and was liquidated in January after European regulators banned further government aid for the unprofitable shipping arm of SNCF, France’s state-owned railway.
DFDS moved to fill the gap on the Dover-Calais route with a two-ship joint venture with France’s LD Lines.
Eurotunnel’s revenue soared 21 percent in the first quarter to $292 million, partly driven by a surge in truck traffic following the demise of Sea France.
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