P&O Ferries warns of ‘significant disruption’ to services after 800 staff are let go

P&O Ferries has made 800 of its staff redundant, effective immediately, and cancelled all its services for the next few days – warning of “significant disruption”.

The move – to plug a £100m year-on-year black hole in the company’s finances – is believed to affect everyone from captains to cleaning staff and has been branded “a knife right through the heart of UK maritime”.

The company said these staff will be served with “enhanced” severance packages, calling it a “necessary decision” to protect its remaining 2,200 staff.

It said the business is “not viable” in its current state.

New foreign crew waiting to board the Pride of Hull on King George Dock. ⁦@RMTunion⁩ sitting in onboard the vessel. They will not be boarding her. We understands that both current officers and ratings are to be sacked. pic.twitter.com/JqJOWNxgDA

— Karl Turner MP (@KarlTurnerMP) March 17, 2022

In a statement, the ferry operator said: “We have made a £100m loss year-on-year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable. Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now.


“Without these changes, there is no future for P&O Ferries.”

People in balaclavas ‘taking British crew’ off ships

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Following the announcement, Labour MP Diana Johnson said people in balaclavas had been seen “taking British crew” off of the ships.

Making a point of order in the House of Commons, the Kingston upon Hull North MP described P&O’s actions as “shameful” and warned they will have a “major economic impact on places like the Humber”.

She said the staff who have been made redundant are being replaced by agency staff in buses on the quayside.

Image: Queues of lorries have started to build up in Dover Image: Lorries waiting to check in at the Port of Dover

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch confirmed he had been receiving reports of security guards at Dover seeking to board ships with handcuffs to remove crew.He said the union is seeking “urgent legal action” and called for the government to “take action to stop what is fast turning into one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations”.“If this happens at P&O it can happen anywhere, and we are calling for mass trade union and wider public mobilisation and protest against the company,” Mr Lynch added.

Union members advised to stay onboard

RMT national secretary Darren Procter said the move by P&O Ferries “puts a knife right through the heart of UK maritime”.

He told Sky News: “Our members are on board the vessels, absolutely devastated by what’s going on.”

Meanwhile, Nautilus International union’s general secretary Mark Dickinson said the union believes it is “in our members’ best interests to stay onboard” until further notice.

He added: “The news that P&O Ferries is sacking the crew across its entire UK fleet is a betrayal of British workers.

“It is nothing short of scandalous given that this Dubai owned company received millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money during the pandemic”

‘Significant disruption’ expected as long queues seen in Dover

Lorry queues have begun to build up around Dover following the suspension of services, with the Department for Transport (DfT) saying it is working with local partners “to ensure the free flow of traffic in Kent”.

P&O warned there would be “significant disruption across P&O Ferries services over the next few days, however we are working to minimise the impact on your journey”.

It added: “If travelling on our Dover/Calais route please arrive at the port as booked and we will arrange to get you away on an alternative carrier as quickly as possible.”

#PODover #POCalais Our services are unable to run for the next few days. Please arrive as booked, we will get you away on an alternative carrier as quickly as possible. Once at the port, please make your way to the DFDS check-in booths. We apologise for the inconvenience.

— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) March 17, 2022

Morgan Ryan told Sky News he arrived at Larne with his family for the 8am sailing to Cairnryan – having been up since 4am – when they noticed people being turned away.

“We got to the front of the queue and a P&O staff member informed us all services had been suspended. She didn’t know why, only that they’d been told all operations were suspended at 7.30am.

Image: P&O ferries in Dover after all operations were halted

“Annoyingly, we were directed to Belfast and assured that all bookings had been rearranged with Stena and that we’d be on the 11.30am crossing with them.

“Of course, when we got there they had no knowledge of any arrangement and had not received any contact from P&O. We had to fork out the fare again as we need to be in Glasgow today.”

Having paid €420 (£360) for the original booking, the family had to pay an additional £320 for the trip with Stena.

He said: “I tried P&O by phone, just hold music. Nobody on the ground helping or making arrangements for customers as stated in their tweets.”

Image: Three P&O ferries, Spirit of Britain, Pride of Canterbury and Pride of Kent, moor up in the cruise terminal at the Port of Dover

‘All this service for nothing’

Another passenger, Lauren, was due to be on the 4pm sailing from Cairnryan but she received a phone call at around 10am to say it had been cancelled.

“So unfortunate for the workers at P&O but I’m so angry as we only booked this ferry last night, and they were happy to take my money knowing this was going to happen,” she said.

“Not easy to have paid the fare yesterday and now having to pay the same fare for Stena Line, especially with the current cost of living,” she added.

A former P&O Ferries employee, who worked in the ferry engine rooms since the 1980s, has mentioned a planned protest at one of the ports.

Speaking to PA news agency, the 54-year-old said: “I’m fuming, to be honest with you. I’ve known people who’ve been with the firm for years – this is no way to treat people.

“It was just a short message this morning saying you’ve all lost a job, basically – all this service for nothing.”

Government ‘concerned’ at suspension

Earlier today, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said his officials will be having “urgent discussions” with P&O Ferries as he expressed concern at the suspension of sailings.

The company, which transports passengers and freight, is owned by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World.

It operates these four routes: Dover to Calais; Hull to Rotterdam; Liverpool to Dublin; and Cairnryan, Scotland, to Larne, Northern Ireland.

Image: The P&O ferry Pride of Hull in the Port of Hull, East Yorkshire

A route that previously operated between Hull and Zeebrugge, Belgium, was axed in January 2021.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, P&O Ferries warned in May 2020 that around 1,100 workers could lose their jobs as part of a plan to make the business “viable and sustainable”.

Have you been affected by the redundancies or had your sailing cancelled? Email [email protected]