Another inspection failure for P and O as sailings recommence amid overcapacity concerns

Thu 5 May 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

P&O’s Pride of Kent ferry has failed a Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) inspection as the company recommences passenger crossings on the Dover-Calais route.

The Spirit if Britain is currently the only operational P&O vessel of three on the route.

The MCA said: “The Pride of Kent remains under detention after failing to pass its re-inspection today. There are no further inspections of P&O Ferries at the moment, but we will inspect [and re-inspect] when requested by the company.”

Asked about crew sourcing and training by The Loadstar, P&O Ferries said it had “recruited high-quality experienced seafarers, who have familiarised themselves with the ships, going through all mandatory training requirements set out by our regulators”.

'Commercial viability'

The company said it was welcoming passengers and freight customers on board and expected to be back to full service and commercial viability soon.

Sky reports that drive-on passengers and tourists were able to use the service for the first time in almost six weeks on Tuesday by boarding the Spirit of Britain.

The ship has been crossing the English Channel for the last several days, carrying freight-only traffic.

P&O will face a daunting task in turning losses into profits following the six-week lay-off of its cross-Channel ships, reports the FT.

Cheaper competition

The Dover to Calais journey has faced growing competition since the Channel Tunnel opened and cheaper ferry companies have begun operating in this route.

Irish Ferries, which stared on the route last year, operates a similar low-cost crew structure to the model brought in by P&O. It has also led to overcapacity across the Channel.

Danny Southby, an executive at freight forwarding company Davies Turner, said he had noticed ferries “often” sailing 50% full and that there was almost no disruption from the unexpected loss of P&O services until the Easter school holidays.

DFDS warned of “considerable” overcapacity in the market in its most recent annual report.

Call to nationalise

Union RMT claimed the P&O fleet was being operated by “over-worked and under-skilled agency crews, some expected to work for up to 17 weeks on the intensive Dover-Calais route”.

General Secretary Mick Lynch said P&O pose a threat to maritime safety and the future of the UK ferry industry.

“The only way to restore safety and economic stability in the ferry industry is for the government to take over the running of P&O Ferries and to restore skilled seafarers to their jobs on union rates of pay,” he added.