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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Shades of the RNMDSF and Newlyn - The end of a French tradition?

Seems the RNMDSF isn't the only seamen's mission to be finding it hard going in the current economic climate - across the water in France a similar story is unfolding.  Maybe photographer David Penpraze could do a French version of his Mission book - Le Sel du Monde?

At the end of the Second World War French ports had to rebuild the accommodation made available to seamen. The aim was to provide meals and a room at a reasonable cost for merchant seamen and fishermen stopping over in the ports. "Les Gens de mer" were established in all the major ports including DunkirkBoulogneLe HavreBrestLorient and Marseille, but are now under threat, initially because of changing work patterns and the increasing use of container ships. In 2000, the decision was taken to open these hotel/restaurants to the general public, while offering a reduced tariff for seamen. However, last year, the Association, which runs these centres was taken into administration and on 6th November the bankruptcy court in Paris will decide whether they can continue, as losses have reached several million euros.

After the closure of the centre in Concarneau, it now looks like Le Havre and Boulogne will have to close too. The situation has worsened with the end of state subsidies from the French authorities. A further consequence of these changes is that local Seamen’s Clubs are also under threat. Given these circumstances, the French CGT trade union representatives are now fighting to ensure the survival of these centres claiming that they can be run much more efficiently by reducing what they see as the exorbitant pay given to the executives. Meanwhile, the Association has lodged a recovery plan with the Paris bankruptcy court. If the Court decides to bring their activity to an end, it will mark the disappearance of a long tradition in French ports.