From Lloyds List
SpeedFerries' Dover-Boulogne service grinds to halt
Andrew Spurrier, Paris - Friday 7 November 2008
THE SpeedFerrries catamaran ferry service between Dover and Boulogne-sur-Mer was at a standstill today after the company´s only vessel, SpeedOne, was seized in Boulogne on Thursday evening on the order of the local court of commerce.
The Boulogne chamber of commerce, which operates the port, said that it had applied for the seizure of the vessel against arrears in port dues run up by the ferry company.
It added that the vessel would be held until an agreement on the arrears had been reached with SpeedFerries.
"The Boulogne chamber of commerce is open to all solutions to resolve this situation favourably and rapidly in order for the service to resume as soon as possible," it said.
SpeedFerries said that the chamber´s action had been "totally unexpected".
Chief executive Curt Stavis said in a statement that he had a written assurance from the chamber that no legal action would be taken prior to a meeting due to take place on Friday morning at 1000 hrs.
"At this meeting, SpeedFerries, in consultation with its bankers and financial advisors, were to present a proposal for a resolution of the issues relating to outstanding dues and taxes, as well as disputes with the port," he said.
He said that the chamber had told local SpeedFerries personnel that they had decided to go ahead with the arrest, despite its undertaking to wait for today´s meeting to "strengthen the negotiating position of the port".
He apologised to the company´s customers but said that, given the chamber´s "unpredictable and inconsistent" behaviour, he was unable to give a firm date for a resumption of services.
He indicated that the company had other grievances against the chamber, including counter-claims which it said had been ignored and "serious competition and discriminatory issues" related to the planned start-up next year of a Boulogne-Dover ferry service by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs subsidiary LD Lines.
SpeedFerries has been operating between Dover and Boulogne since May 2004 but has never succeeded in consolidating its position through the addition of a second vessel.