P&O hopes to resume cross-Channel sailings next week


P&O Ferries said it expects to resume some sailings across the English Channel next week, as disruption caused by its sacking of nearly 800 UK-based crew extends into a fourth week.

The company said on Wednesday it hoped to have two ferries on the Dover to Calais route next week, subject to UK regulatory sign-off.

“P&O Ferries are getting ready to resume services across a number of vital routes . . . We thank our customers for their patience during this time and we apologise to those customers whose journeys have been cancelled and disrupted,” the company said.

One of the ferries scheduled to return, the Pride of Kent, is still impounded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency along with a second ferry, following inspections of crew familiarisation and training.

P&O said it has been “working closely with regulators to ensure our ships are safe to sail”.

The MCA said it has not scheduled any further inspections of P&O ships, which take up to two days. “We will reinspect at the appropriate time,” it added.

P&O said that from next week it also expected to run services between Larne in Northern Ireland and Cairnryan in Scotland, and between Hull and Rotterdam.

P&O has not offered any cross channel sailings since it ordered ships back to port to sack nearly 800 UK-based crew and replace them with cheaper agency staff on March 17.

At the time, P&O predicted disruption would last between five and 10 days.

P&O’s chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite said the company had no choice but to cut costs after two years of heavy losses, but the decision has caused a firestorm of criticism. Last week, UK authorities launched a criminal investigation into the way P&O handled the redundancies.

The new agency staff will be paid an average of £5.50 an hour, which is below the UK’s national minimum wage but not illegal because the crew work offshore.

The loss of cross-Channel sailings has caused long delays and queues in Dover over the past week at the start of the busy Easter travel season.

P&O has been passing passengers and freight on to rival operator DFDS to ease the disruption, but all DFDS services are fully booked this weekend. P&O has instead told customers to try to rebook with another ferry company.


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