Corsica Ferries: the Council of State confirms the conviction of the Corsica Collectivity

The case concerns the maritime service to Corsica. The Collectivity of Corsica was definitively condemned, Wednesday, September 29, by the Council of State to pay 86.3 million euros to the shipping company Corsica Ferries, in compensation for damage related to the “Illegal subsidization” of its competitor, the former Société nationale maritime Corse Méditerranée (SNCM) between 2007 and 2013.

“The appeal lodged by the Collectivité de Corse against the judgments of February 12, 2018 and February 22, 2021 of the Marseille administrative court of appeal is not allowed”, writes the Council of State, the highest French administrative court, in its decision consulted by Agence France-Presse (AFP). In its initial judgment, the Bastia administrative court estimated this damage at 84.3 million euros. The Marseille administrative court of appeal had reassessed it at 86.3 million euros in February 2021, on the basis of an economic appraisal, granting it interest at the legal rate since December 2014.

Allocation of the public service delegation

Corsica Ferries had denounced the attribution by the Territorial Collectivity of Corsica (CTC) of the public service delegation (DSP) to the SNCM, which no longer exists, and to the Mediterranean Navigation Company (CMN). The two companies had provided maritime service between the port of Marseille and Corsica between July 2007 and December 2013.

Read also The allocation to SNCM of the maritime service between Marseille and Corsica has been canceled

The company with yellow ships, leader in the transport of passengers between Corsica and the continent, considered itself the victim of an injury and said it suffered from irregular competition during peak periods, SNCM benefiting from a so-called aid. “Additional service” for the operation of two of its vessels during peak periods.

This “Annual financial compensation of around 40 million euros”, which was paid by the CTC to SNCM, had been judged by the European Commission in 2013 as being “Public aid incompatible with the freedom of competition in the internal market”, recalled the administrative court of appeal. In 2014, the European Commission ordered the return of this illegally paid aid.

In a first judgment of February 12, 2018, the administrative court of appeal of Marseille had mentioned having “Accepted the principle of the responsibility of the Collectivity of Corsica”, considering that the additional service had been “Directly at the origin of a loss of customers for Corsica Ferries”. She had ordered an economic expertise in order to quantify ” shortfall “.

Despite his conviction, “The Corsica Community continues to go against the law by launching DSPs with subsidized passenger transport, which systematically excludes Corsica Ferries from calls for tenders”, had denounced, after the decision of February 2021, the president of Corsica Ferries, Pierre Mattei, fearing that ” the bill [ne] become[ne] really too salty for Corsicans ”.

The World with AFP

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