P&O Ferries suspends sailings ahead of 'major announcement'

The ferry operator posted on Twitter: "We're expecting all our ports to experience serious disruption today"

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P&O Ferries has suspended sailings ahead of a “major announcement”.

A statement which appears to be from the ferry operator posted on Twitter by Hull Labour MP Karl Turner said it “will be making a major announcement today”.

This will “secure the long-term viability of P&O Ferries”, it explained.

The statement added: “To facilitate this announcement all our vessels have been asked to discharge their passengers and cargo and standby for further instructions.

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 in Kent as the company has suspended sailings ahead of a "major announcement" but insisted it is "not going into liquidation". Picture date: Thursday March 17, 2022.
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 in Kent as the company has suspended sailings ahead of a "major announcement" but insisted it is "not going into liquidation". Picture date: Thursday March 17, 2022.

“This means we’re expecting all our ports to experience serious disruption today.”

P&O Ferries wrote on Twitter: “Regretfully, P&O Ferries services are unable to run for the next few hours.

“Our port teams will guide you and travel will be arranged via an alternative operator.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this will have on your journey plans.”

The UK-registered company said it is not going into liquidation.

A spokesman for the firm said: “P&O Ferries is not going into liquidation.

P&O passenger ferries arriving and leaving the Port of Dover, Kent. Picture date: Thursday December 16, 2021.
P&O passenger ferries arriving and leaving the Port of Dover, Kent. Picture date: Thursday December 16, 2021.

“We have asked all ships to come alongside, in preparation for a company announcement.

“Until then, services from P&O will not be running and we are advising travellers of alternative arrangements.”

Responding to reports about the future of P&O, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We are deeply disturbed by growing speculation that the company are today planning to sack hundreds of UK seafarers and replace them with foreign labour.

“We have instructed our members to remain onboard and are demanding our members across P&O’s UK operations are protected, and that the Secretary of State intervenes to save UK seafarers from the dole queue.”

East Antrim MLA John Stewart said: “What we need to hear from the company is that the sailing from Larne to Cairnryan is set in stone and will continue to be there, and they’re going to honour and keep the staff there and continue that sailing because it’s such an integral part of the local economy here.”

His constituency counterpart, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, said: “It’s very disturbing, of course, for passengers but particularly concerning for the port of Larne in my constituency of East Antrim.

The UK-registered company said it is not going into liquidation.
The UK-registered company said it is not going into liquidation.

“Larne port is pivotal for tonnes and tonnes of load freight that comes through that port on a daily basis.”

Mr Dickson said the issue needed attention at the top of government.

“It should be people like Grant Shapps the transport minister making an announcement because this is affecting the whole of the United Kingdom,” he told Radio Ulster.

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.

Shadow transport minister Mike Kane said: “Worrying news has just broken that P&O Ferries have been called to port as DP World, their owners, seek the long-term viability of this ferry company.

“Major disruption is expected. Can the Secretary of State update the House on any discussions he’s had with DP World, P&O Ferries of any potential redundancies, and any redundancies that may happen we don’t want those crews replaced by foreign cheap labour.”

Mr Shapps replied in the Commons: “I am concerned with this news which is breaking on P&O Ferries. I understand they have temporarily paused their operations and that’s causing disruption at the short straits – Calais-Dover – as well as some other ports.

“I’m working with the Kent Resilience Forum and I’ve just instructed them to become intricately involved and other partners in this, and we’ll be taking steps later today – including ensuring that my officials will be having urgent discussions with P&O about the situation, particularly of concern for their workers.”

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he would allow an “emergency statement” from the Government on Thursday if needed.

At 11:30AM on Thursday, a Times newspaper reporter said on Twitter said the ferry operator has made all staff redundant with immediate effect and will use agency workers to sail its ships, after the firm suspended all crossings awaiting an announcement.