Ferry services were back to normal at the port of Calais this morning after action by French seafarers yesterday evening halted sailings at the port for several hours, causing long delays for several thousand travellers in transit in both directions between Dover and Calais.
The seafarers, who worked until the end of June for failed ferry operator MyFerryLink, began their action at 1930 hours, causing the port authorities to halt ferry movements in and out of the port as the seafarers circulated in the port in two lifeboats.
Related news: MyFerryLink crews start fresh disruption in Calais
The port told IHS Maritime that the harbourmaster had decided to halt traffic at the port to avoid any risk of mishap. A spokeswoman said that the port was reopened to traffic at 0130 hours this morning and that the return to normal had been rapid after that.
“In a few hours, everything was fluid again,” she said.
Union official Eric Vercoutre claimed that the seafarers were trying to obtain the handover by the MyFerryLink administrator of material still aboard two of the company’s vessels, which they said belonged to the employee cooperative which manned the vessels on behalf of their owner, Eurotunnel.
The action occurred, however, on the eve of a visit to Calais by French prime minister Manuel Valls for a meeting on the migrant problem in the Calais region. Mr. Vercoutre indicated, moreover, that the seafarers, who are looking for job guarantees for the more than 600 members of the cooperative, had been granted a meeting with a member of Mr. Valls staff.
A meeting is also due to take place in Paris today at which French transport secretary Alain Vidalies is hoping to broker an agreement which will lead to the recruitment of 407 of the 487 cooperative members with permanent employment contracts by rival ferry operator DFDS and Eurotunnel.
In return, the minister wants the seafarers to release two former MyFerryLink vessels which Eurotunnel has chartered to DFDS. DFDS is understood to be ready to take on more than 200 former MyFerryLink seafarers and Eurotunnel, which is planning to operate a freight ferry on its own account, a further 140.