Page last updated at 21:34 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Ferry company could cut 650 jobs

A SeaFrance ferry
SeaFrance said staff numbers in France would be cut by 650

Cross-Channel ferry operator SeaFrance could cut 650 jobs to try to survive the recession.

The company, which runs ferries between Dover and Calais, blamed "a difficult financial situation" for the move.

Announcing a restructuring plan, the firm said there had been a "steep fall in the cross-Channel freight market".

A statement said 650 jobs could be shed in France, affecting both sea-going and shore-based staff, and the firm would be restructured.

It said it would put forward "a comprehensive series of measures to assist those affected" with the support of its shareholder SNCF.

'Downsized fleet'

The statement said SeaFrance was faced with an "unprecedented situation" which was "exacerbated particularly by the steep fall in the cross-Channel freight market".

It said the freight market was 23% down in January compared with a year ago - the equivalent of 800,000 trucks in a full year.

The company said it was "proposing the steps essential to secure a return to profitability and its long-term future".

The plan would see "significant reorganisation of the company", it added.

Measures would include downsizing the SeaFrance fleet to reduce costs.

It said the company's projected freight and tourism volumes could be accommodated on its three superferries - the Berlioz, Rodin and Molière.

SeaFrance said the move would achieve a return to break-even by 2010 and become a "strong and successful force in the industry by 2011".

Last year, it was announced that more than 100 workers faced redundancy at another cross-Channel operator, SpeedFerries, after no buyer came forward for the firm.

The firm, which ran the vessel SpeedOne between Dover and Boulogne, went into administration in November.

Administrators from Ernst and Young said they had tried to save the business but found no buyers.

A government rapid deployment team was sent to Dover to help workers.

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