Channel ferry operator SeaFrance has been liquidated by a French court with the loss of 130 jobs in the UK.

The Tribunal de Commerce decided its future after the European Commission ruled that a 200m Euros (£176m) bailout by the French government was illegal.

However, Eurotunnel has backed a last-ditch attempt by a cooperative to rescue the operator. A Paris court is to rule on the union-backed project’s viability.

Eurotunnel boss Jacques Gounon told the daily Liberation that the company was “a candidate for a majority stake … in a transport firm which would take over the SeaFrance ferries” and then rent them to the cooperative.

A joint bid by French shipping firm Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and Danish ferry company DFDS was rejected because it would have seen many staff sacked and probably triggered industrial action.

A bid by SeaFrance management to buy out the firm, backed by a 160-million-euro loan from state rail firm SNCF, was blocked last year by the European Commission on competition grounds.

Sailings by SeaFrance between Dover and Calais were suspended in November.