Rather than casting doubt on its commitment to the Motorway of the Seas (MoS) initiative, Grimaldi’s decision to pull out of its agreement with fellow ocean forwarder LD Lines for the operation of a ferry service between France and Spain has been taken because the Italian operator wants to concentrate on its core business of moving cars according to its commercial and logistics director for Naples, Costantino Balidissara.
“The reason we have cancelled this agreement is because we want to be more focussed on our core business, which is the car carrier service, the deep-sea service and also the MoS service in the Med, the Baltic and the Adriatic,” he told Automotive Logistics News.
LD and Grimaldi’s joint venture, GLD Atlantique, made its commercial debut earlier in September with LD’s Norman Bridge plying three weekly round-trips between Nantes-Saint-Nazaire in France and Gijón in Northern Spain for passengers and trailers. But last week Grimaldi Lines pulled out of the ro-pax service without commenting on the decision, though unconfirmed media reports pointed to a disagreement between the two companies on the vessel operating the route, while Grimaldi had apparently voiced concerns over the viability of the service.
As part of the Marco Polo initiative, the European Union's funding programme for projects that shift freight transport from the road to sea, rail and inland waterways, Motorways of the Sea project aims at introducing new intermodal maritime-based logistics chains in Europe.
According to the European Commission’s Energy and Transport department: “Motorways of the sea will thus improve access to markets throughout Europe, and bring relief to our over-stretched European road system.”
Baldissara said that this remains central to the Grimaldi’s plans, with proof found in the fact that of the 21 new vessels it is currently building, eight will be used for the MoS service. Baldissara also mentioned additional projects for the wider Marco Polo initiative.
“With Finnlines and Minoan, we are the biggest group [involved], we currently have more than 60 ships running between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean ports involved in Motorways of the Sea,” he added.
The GLD Atlantique joint venture was set to benefit from €30m (US$39m) of state aid over a four-year period, as well as an additional €4m subsidy, spread over seven years, from the EU within the framework of its Marco Polo II funding programme.