BRITTANY Ferries executives say the company could fold if the firm’s pleas to delay the date a new anti-pollution fuel regulation comes into force are ignored.
The company, which is launching its fastcat service from Portsmouth to Le Havre next Thursday, says the European Union regulation will see its fuel costs soar by 60 per cent.
The knock-on effect could mean it can’t afford to run its services from Portsmouth, resulting in the loss of 100 jobs and the £10m berthing costs it pays to Portsmouth City Council every year.
The aim of the new rule is to reduce fuel sulphur levels from 3.5 per cent to 0.1 per cent by 2015.
Those levels are specifically for the heavily-congested English Channel, North Sea, and Baltic Sea which are Sulphur Emissions Control Areas.
Brittany Ferries says it has no problem with the principle of the regulations but the timescale for implementing them is too tight,
While it might be able to fit sulphur scrubbers on its ships, which travel between Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth to the continent, it said there was no proof the scrubbers will reduce the sulphur content in the fuel.
As a result, the companies will have to pay for the more expensive low-sulphur fuel, while they build new ships with new technology that means they can be powered on liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Stephen Tuckwell, director of communications and Portsmouth port operations for Brittany Ferries, said: ‘The 2015 deadline will leave insufficient time to invest in alternative technologies.
‘We are already looking at other fuel solutions such as LNG, but there is no supply chain in place and this is only likely to be viable for new ships from 2020.
‘Fuel accounts for a huge proportion of our costs – around £65m a year.
If these changes go ahead as planned then we’ll see our fuel costs rise by 60 per cent – to more than £100m a year.
‘We would be faced with no alternative other than to raise our passenger fares and freight rates, which is obviously undesirable. ‘We’d also have to consider reducing services as demand falls and we trim capacity – this could potentially affect any of our ports, including Portsmouth.’
Mr Tuckwell said the cost rises would be ‘unsustainable’, adding that it ‘could well lead to the collapse of the company’.
Other ferry firms which operate out of Portsmouth – LD Lines and P&O Ferries, are also calling for the extension.
The French authorities have agreed to the delay until 2020, as long as the British government, which has to sign the EU directive, agrees.
MP bidding to persuade government to change plans
MIKE Hancock has said he will do all he can to persuade the government to delay the new fuel rules.
The Portsmouth South MP said he has arranged a meeting with Brittany Ferries to discuss the issue.
‘I’m committed to doing all I can to try and persuade the government to agree with the French. It could be quite traumatic for ferry operators,’ he said.
‘If the French are going to see it through then I see no reason why the British government shouldn’t follow suit and give them five years extra.’