French strike strands 1,500 travellers

21st September 2005, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLES, France, Sept 21 (AFP) - More than 1,500 travellers were stranded overnight after two ferry boats were prevented from sailing by striking seamen protesting the proposed privatization of their company, port officials said Wednesday.

MARSEILLES, France, Sept 21 (AFP) - More than 1,500 travellers were stranded overnight after two ferry boats were prevented from sailing by striking seamen protesting the proposed privatization of their company, port officials said Wednesday.

The management of the Corsica-Mediterranean shipping company (SNCM) said the company's president, Bruno Vergobbi, had been taken hostage, but the CGT union denied this.

"He is aboard the ship, yes ... but he is not being held," said union spokesman Bernard Marty. "He himself organized the meeting on the boat, which was closed for security reasons."

Officials said the ferry 'Mediterrannée,' which was due to leave for Algiers with 1,000 passengers and 750 vehicles, was prevented from leaving Tuesday afternoon along with the 'Napoléon Bonaparte' that was scheduled to depart for Corsica with 550 passengers and about 100 vehicles.

The strike was touched off by an announcement that two investment funds, Butler Capital Partners and Caravelle, were in line to take over the state shipping company, which has 2,400 employees and has been experiencing financial difficulties.

Discontented passengers clashed with police Tuesday outside the headquarters of the company according to witnesses, who said two police officers were slightly injured and three people were detained.

Passengers spent the night aboard the ship or in the town. The Red Cross said it distributed provisions, but witnesses said passengers were complaining of a lack of food and water and of access to toilets.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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