Brittany Ferries Strike Affects Travel, Business In Three Countries

A strike by the employees of Brittany Ferries is disrupting the movement of travelers and goods between England, France and Spain.

The BBC reports the French union that staffs the ferry service is striking in protest of cuts by the company, which is deeply in the red. Brittany Ferries operates several lines from England to various ports in northern France and Spain. In addition to travelers using the service to bring their cars across the water, about 3,000 commercial trucks use the service.

In a press release, the company stated that because of repeated wildcat strikes, they’ve made the decision to suspend almost all service: “The only route which will be unaffected is the Poole-Cherbourg passenger service which is operated on our behalf by Condor Ferries … Because of this indefinite stoppage we are recommending customers to travel to Dover where we currently have special arrangements in place with P&O Ferries and MyFerryLink to accept Brittany Ferries tickets [see website for details]. Unused Brittany Ferries crossings will be refunded.”

One of Brittany Ferries’ destinations is Santander in Spain, where I live part time. Port fees, customers using local businesses, and the shipment of goods all bring an injection of much-needed money into an economy in recession. Local paper El Diario Montañes reports that the ship Cap Finistère has been stuck here since September 20, with 500 passengers and 100 vehicles. Most have made their way to other ferries in France.

[Photo of the Cap Finistère courtesy George Hutchinson]

India restarts ferry to Sri Lanka after 30 years of civil war

Sri Lanka is still recovering after a long and brutal civil war that started in 1983 and only ended two years ago. The fight between Tamil separatists and the government left 100,000 people dead, many of them civilians, and there were accusations of war crimes on both sides. The government won and the island nation is now beginning to rebuild.

A sign of that rebuilding is the relaunching of passenger ferry service with India, which had been suspended for 30 years due to security concerns. The first boat left from Tuticorin in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu last night and arrived in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo this morning. The boat is called the Scotia Prince, can carry 1,000 passengers, and is fitted with a restaurant and casino. The Scotia Prince last hit the news when it rescued thousands of Indians and Sri Lankans from the war in Libya.

Flemingo International, the company running the India-Sri Lanka route, says their service will do two round-trip journeys a week and provides a cheaper alternative to flying. Travel to Sri Lanka has been increasing since the end of the civil war.

A second ferry will start soon, operated by the Ceylon Shipping Corporation.

[Image of Scotia Prince courtesy Rama]

Strike in Greece leaves tourists stranded

A strike by dock workers in Greece’s main port of Piraeus has kept thousands of visitors from boarding ferries to the Greek islands.

Greece is trying to impose economic austerity measures that were dictated by the IMF and EU in exchange for a 110 billion euro ($135 billion) bailout. Trade unions object to cuts in the minimum wage and a reduction of benefits and pensions.

Railway workers and employees of the state television are also striking, adding to the chaos.

This strike, only the latest of several, comes right after a declaration by the Greek government that it will compensate any tourist stranded by industrial action. The government is already strapped for cash but will now have to put its money where its mouth is and pay for a whole bunch of hotel rooms. Good news for Piraeus hoteliers, bad news for everyone else.

Are you in Greece? Tell us your experiences in the comment section.

Photo of Piraeus courtesy user Templar52 via Wikimedia Commons.

Hong Kong-Macau Bridge to be Built

Hong Kong is now connected to Macau by ferry. Long-running negotiations for a bridge connection between the two cities, and their mainland neighbor Zhuhai, have led to nothing but hurt feelings and finger pointing. Enter Beijing. The government of China has a rare chance to play the good guy in the former colonies. And it will only cost them a few billion dollars. According to The Standard, Beijing has stepped in to take over the project and will spend 7 billion yuan (HK$ 8 billion) to get things off the ground.

The result: in 6-7 years it will be possible to drive from the mainland to Macau to Hong Kong without having to board a ferry or even get out of your car. Impatient compulsive gamblers will not have to deal with sea-sickness or tardy ferryboat captains on the way to Macau. The bridge will also do wonders for the mainland, turning an already crazy shopping scene into an orgy of consumerism and name-brand knockoffs.

But what about the storied ferry service? Will it disappear? Probably not. When the tunnel was built under Victoria Harbor, ferries continued to do a brisk business up above. The same would probably be true for the HK-Macau service. Emphasis on probably.