Groupe Eurotunnel bid to run French ports

Port of Calais
Image caption Eurotunnel is to make a bid to run the French ports of Calais and Boulogne for the next 50 years

Eurotunnel is to submit a bid to run the French ferry ports of Calais and Boulogne, the company has confirmed.

A tendering process under way will see the successful bidder awarded the Calais-Boulogne ports concession to run the ports for 50 years.

Rival operator P&O Ferries said the move could raise competition issues.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said he was deeply concerned that increased competition would affect British ferry firms and put a squeeze on local jobs.

The port is currently run by the Calais chamber of commerce, Cote d'Opale.

Groupe Eurotunnel confirmed a bid would be submitted in the coming months.

Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe said the cross-Channel rail firm's parent company, Groupe Eurotunnel, would make the bid.

He said the firm currently ran the cross-Channel shuttle service and also operated transport services and other port infrastructure around France.

The Calais-Boulogne bid was "entirely in keeping with the group strategy" and the company had background and experience in the field, he added.

He said: "This is not us competing with P&O or with anybody on the [Dover-Calais ferry route] short strait. This is port infrastructure management and a completely different issue."

'Deep concern'

But Brian Rees, P&O spokesman, said the Office of Fair Trading had already referred Eurotunnel's recent purchase of former SeaFrance ships, which are now run as MyFerryLink Ferries, to the Competition Commission.

He said: "Given the tunnel's scale in the market as the biggest cross-Channel carrier and the fact they own ferries now, it raises questions about competition and regulation."

And he added that "we [P&O] would be talking to our biggest competitor about our arrangements to use the port", if the Eurotunnel bid was successful.

Conservative MP for Dover and Deal Mr Elphicke, said: "Eurotunnel effectively own the [former] Seafrance ferry company. Now they want to own the French ports of Calais and Boulogne."

He said: "I am deeply concerned that this is too much control of the cross-Channel freight market in the hands of one operator."

He said the situation should be investigated by the Competition Commission and the European Competition Authorities.

Mr Elphicke said the move could have an impact on ferry lines P&O and DFDS, which were predominantly British employers, and put a squeeze on British jobs.

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