<p>P&O Ferries Spirit of Britain (Gareth Fuller/PA)</p>

P&O Ferries Spirit of Britain (Gareth Fuller/PA)

P&O Ferries Dover-Calais sailings unlikely to resume this Easter after vessel detained

Regulators identify ‘a number of deficiencies’ with the Spirit of Britain

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 13 April 2022 09:28
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In a further blow for UK travellers, P&O Ferries looks increasingly unlikely to resume Dover-Calais sailings this Easter after another of its vessels was detained by regulators.

The Spirit of Britain ship is being held in port by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which is carrying out inspections to ensure P&O vessels are fit to sail.

“The Spirit of Britain has been detained due to surveyors identifying a number of deficiencies which were grounds for detention,” an MCA spokesperson told ITV News.

“We have advised P&O to invite us back once they have addressed the issues. We do not know yet when this will be.”

Inspections are taking place after the company fired 800 of its seafaring staff without warning last month, replacing them with cheaper agency workers.

Despite pressure from the government to reverse the decision and hire back staff, P&O Ferries CEO Peter Hebblethwaite refused, writing in an open letter to Grant Shapps: “You have asked me to reverse our decision and ‘offer all 800 workers their jobs back.’ Unfortunately, this ignores the situation’s fundamental and factual realities.”

The debacle prompted the government to protect seafarers’ pay; the transport secretary said he had asked British ports to refuse access to ferry services paying below the UK’s existing minimum wage, which from 1 April went up to £9.50 an hour.

P&O Ferries had previously been hopeful that it would restart its popular Dover-Calais route ahead of the Easter break.

A spokesman for the firm said last week: “From this weekend, P&O Ferries are getting ready to resume services across a number of vital routes.

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

“P&O is looking forward to welcoming back vital services and we expect to have two of our vessels ready to sail on the Dover/Calais route by next week, subject to regulatory sign-off, namely both the Pride of Kent and Spirit of Britain between Dover/Calais.”

However, the company tweeted this morning: “Services today remain cancelled. For those with a confirmed P&O Ferries booking to travel today, please arrive at the port for the P&O sailing time booked. Once at the port please head to the DFDS booths (Dover) or P&O booths (Calais).”

The Pride of Kent is also currently being detained by the MCA.

The only P&O ships that have been inspected and signed off are the Pride of Hull, which operates between Hull and Rotterdam, and European Causeway, which sails between Larne and Cairnryan.

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