Government scraps P and O Ferries contract to transport border staff as firm's freight traffic drops

Tue 31 May 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The government has cut ties with P&O Ferries following its decision in March to sack almost 800 staff in March.

A Home Office contract for P&O Ferries, involving the transport of border staff to northern France if there was a problem at the Channel Tunnel, has been ended.

The Department for Transport has also concluded a review of its links with P&O Ferries and wound up its only contract with the firm, the BBC reports.

‘Unacceptable behaviour’

A Home Office spokesperson said: “In response to P&O Ferries’ unacceptable behaviour, Border Force has terminated its agreement with P&O to provide contingency travel services to juxtaposed ports with immediate effect.”

Juxtaposed ports are UK border controls set up in Calais, Dunkirk and some railway stations in France and Belgium, where goods and passengers are checked ahead of travel.

As previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, plans to commence sailings within a week of the sackings were scuppered by the company’s ships having to pass new maritime inspections to ensure they were safe to sail. Sailings on the busy Dover-Calais route did resume until May. 

Government probe

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed in April that the Insolvency Service had decided to launch a formal investigation into “the circumstances surrounding the recent redundancies made by P&O Ferries”, reports Sky.

Measures aimed at ensuring seafarers are paid at least the UK’s national minimum wage were also included in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month. The government will introduce legislation banning ferries from docking at UK ports if they pay workers below that level.

Freight traffic down

P&O is struggling to attract custom back to its ferries, ITV reports.

Freight volumes on the busy route between Dover and Calais in the week ending Saturday 21 May were up 32.3% on the previous week but from a very low base.

P&O’s two ferries carried only 3,022 freight vehicles, 87.7% less than the company target.

Freight services across the Irish Sea have been fully operational for several weeks but traffic on the Liverpool to Dublin crossing ran 19% below budget last week and traffic between Larne and Cairnryan was 17% below target.

By contrast, freight levels on P&O’s Hull to Rotterdam service have recovered.