P and O Ferries crisis: Stena Line adds sailings as Dover authorities prepare for port delays

Tue 22 Mar 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

stena line

Highway authorities have put Operation Brock in place on the M20 in Kent in anticipation of disruption at the Port of Dover following the suspension of P&O Ferries services.

The move comes as Stena Line announced it is putting on extra ferry services between Scotland and Northern Ireland this week, in a move announced by transport secretary Grant Shapps in the House of Commons.

Praise for Stena Line

Shapps praised the shipping line for having “stepped up” to ease pressure on retailers such as M&S and Asda, after P&O had cancelled its sailings to Larne.

Meanwhile Danish shipper DFDS, which sails from Dover to Dunkirk and Calais and Newhaven to Dieppe, is understood to have told Shapps that P&O’s actions would have repercussions for other freight shippers if it is allowed to cut costs by firing 800 staff.

Moveable barrier

National Highways said the moveable barrier system had been reintroduced between Junctions 8 and 9 from Maidstone to Ashford.

The traffic management system aims to keep the M20 open in both directions by using a contraflow road layout, reports ITV.

Lorries heading for mainland Europe are directed on to the coastbound carriageway, where they can be queued if necessary.

Staff sacked

In a shock move, P&O halted all ferry services last week when it sacked 800 staff to try and make the business “sustainable”. Following a loss of £100m last year, it is looking to slash its wages bill by hiring agency staff.

P&O hopes to resume sailings this week, but was not able to say yesterday when it will resume services, reported the FT.

According to government figures Dover is the largest Ro-Ro port in the UK, handling 23% and 22% of major port Ro-Ro units and tonnage respectively in 2020. P&O carries about 15% of all freight cargo in and out of the UK.

Midweek peak

Last week’s suspension did not lead to major problems for freight movements, Logistics UK told the IOE&IT Daily Update as it happened towards the weekend when traffic is lighter. However, midweek is “peak time”, a spokesperson said.

Latest developments

  • Lloyds List says that replacing an ageing fleet is P&O Ferries’ next headache, though it has two new ships on order
  • Kent Live reports that traffic was coping well with the contraflow system this morning
  • UK News in Pictures tweeted that “lorries are starting to queue in operation Brock”
  • However, Kent Resilience Forum said there was “sufficient capacity” to accommodate displaced P&O freight, reports the BBC.