Ferry services resume after Calais port blockade | News | DW | 31.08.2015
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Ferry services resume after Calais port blockade

Several thousand passengers were stranded at sea or blocked from leaving the French port after a protest by sailors. The blockade lasted eight hours and came ahead of talks with company bosses over job losses.

Thousands of ferry passengers traveling between Britain and France were left stranded on Sunday night after a fresh blockade of the northern French port of Calais.

Seaman from the bankrupt firm Scop SeaFrance, which went by the brand name MyFerryLink, used lifeboats to block the busy port from about 7.30pm local time (1730 UTC). Their action delayed travelers using other ferry services from P&O and DFDS for several hours, before the blockade was lifted.

One ship was stuck in port with 2,000 passengers aboard. Two others, carrying 3,200 passengers between them, were prevented from entering the harbor. A fourth vessel remained at the English port of Dover, waiting for the industrial action to end. Other ferry services were diverted to nearby French ports.

In a tweet, Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart complained that the port had been taken “hostage.”

The delays were compounded because of extra traffic due to a long, public holiday weekend in the UK.

After the blockade end, senior union official Eric Vercoutre told Agence France Presse that sailors would now hold talks with government officials. Ferry operators said delays to services would remain for the next few hours.

Scop SeaFrance workers have carried out repeated protests over the summer in Calais, amid fears of a large number of job losses as the company restructures. In July, the port was blocked for three consecutive days, causing havoc with cross-Channel sailings and huge tailbacks on roads in the UK and France.

Calais has also seen mounting tensions among the many migrants camped in the northern French city, attempting to smuggle themselves into Britain. Last month, several thousand people stormed the entrance to the nearby Channel Tunnel, forcing the cancellations of rail services that ply the route.

MyFerryLink ceased operations at the beginning of July. A meeting about the company's future is expected on Monday, with a deal likely to save up to 400 of the 487 jobs under threat.

Separately on Monday, French Prime Minister Manual Valls will travel to Calais to discuss the migrant crisis.

mm/jil (AFP, AP)

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