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Ferry companies were working to return to normal sailing schedules as the port of Calais finally reopened last night after a four-day blockade by striking MyFerryLink workers.
P&O Ferries was moving back to its full schedule of 25 sailings a day between Dover and the French port, saying last night that it is “now back to business as usual”.
This compared to a partial opening of Calais yesterday to let one P&O vessel in every two hours.
The French transport minister, Thierry Mariani, has promised further talks next Wednesday with French union Maritime Nord, which wants to safeguard 570 jobs after the takeover of Eurotunnel-owned MyFerryLink’s ships by rival DFDS Seaways following a competition authority ruling.
DFDS officially took over the MyFerryLink service yesterday but striking workers were reportedly continuing to occupy ships and its service to Calais remained suspended this morning, while sailings between Dover and Dunkirk were subject to 90-minute delays.
Members of the School Travel Forum, representing school travel tour operators, called on MPs to take immediate action over the illegal wildcat strikes in Calais.
The group’s members organise more than 15,000 school trips a year, representing a value of over £400 million to the UK economy.
The strikes are occurring at the busiest time of year for school trips, with a huge number travelling from Dover to Calais.
The Forum is demanding urgent government and EU action to make the French authorities end the illegal strikes, which are causing “substantial ongoing costs” to the industry.
General manager, Ian Pearson, said: “The evidence shows that school trips are an extremely valuable educational and life experience for our children.
“The massive amount of planning and preparation made by the schools is being shamefully wasted and the immense personal value of these experiences is being lost by the pupils.”
The Port of Dover said: “Following a sustained period of industrial action in France commencing at on June 29, the port of Calais is now operating two berths which is allowing P&O Ferries to run a full service to Calais whilst DFDS Seaways continues to run a full service to Dunkirk, with an additional ship diverted to the route to help accommodate heavy traffic.”
P&O Ferries chief executive, Helen Deeble, said: “I am delighted to be able to inform all of our customers that the port of Calais has now re-opened and that P&O Ferries is now back to business as usual.
"We are already moving back to our full schedule of 25 sailings a day between Dover and Calais.
“We have the capacity to move 4,000 freight units a day and we expect to be able to carry the backlog of lorry drivers currently waiting in Operation Stack across to the continent within the next 48 hours."
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