Daring Raid Sees ‘Kidnapped’ Brittany Ferry Freed By Chairman and his Farming Friends

A Brittany Ferries vessel blocked since Wednesday in Ouistreham harbour (Calvados) by striking ferry-company-employed dockers has been “liberated” after a commando-style operation led by the shipping company’s president and a posse of shareholders.

'Liberated' Brittany Channel Ferry (Credit www.brittany-ferries.fr)

‘Liberated’ Brittany Channel Ferry (Credit www.brittany-ferries.fr)

The boarders seized the Mont-Saint-Michel and sailed it back to the port of Roscoff in Finistère over the weekend, according to Le Parisien.

The unprecedented “rescue” — for which only scant details were available — was said to have been led by Jean-Marc Roué Chairman and CEO (PDG) of Brittany Ferries and a team of some 20 vegetable-farmer-members of a Brittany vegetable growers cooperative which owns the ferry company.

The striking dockers in turn work for Société de Manutention du Port de Caen, of which Brittany Ferries is the majority shareholder.

In a statement released to Agence France Presse news agency Brittany Ferries said: “an over-night operation on Saturday by a score of company shareholders has freed the ferry (…)  from Ouistreham port,  and regained control of a vessel that had been held hostage due to the blackmail of a minority”.

The ship, the Mont-Saint-Michel, (which operates regular sailings to UK ports), “then steamed to Roscoff where it arrived on Sunday,”  the statement added.

Brittany Ferries is a subsidiary of Sica de Saint-Pol-de-Léon, an agricultural cooperative based in Finistère.

According to Le Parisien no details of how the stealth raid operation was carried out have been released.

The company said the dockers went on strike last Wednesday, demanding an increase of some 5%.

“But the co-op management judged this request  ‘unacceptable’ given the very serious financial crisis the company has just been through”.

Furthermore, the co-op statement added, “management had just completed the annual salary negotiating round under which a ‘fair wage adjustment had been agreed for all ocean-going and shore-side employees’.

“The ‘liberation’ raid sums up the anger felt by Brittany Ferries shareholders after the ship was taken hostage”, the company statement concluded.

Le Parisien reported that the commando-style operation by the ferry firm’s top brass went smoothly.

Contacted by AFP, a Brittany Ferries union representative Michel Cavorzin said:  “most of the crew had been shore-side,” on Saturday. “The management operation raises questions. How did the CEO Jean-Marc Roué and his shareholder farmers manage to enter a restricted area of the harbour? How did the farmers get on board? How did they manage to sail the ship? Were there sufficient crew on board for it to set out safely? These are questions we shall be asking the harbour authorities,” he said.

Meanwhile it would appear normal ferry service is set to resume between Brittany and the UK just as the summer season gets under way.

Story: Ken Pottinger



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