P and O Ferries: Sailings halted as firm looks to secure 'long-term viability' after £100m loss

Thu 17 Mar 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

p&o ferries

P&O Ferries, one of the leading transporters of freight between Great Britain and the EU, has suspended all sailings and made 800 staff redundant, to plug a £100m loss in its finances.

Services between GB and the EU, and GB to Ireland (Dublin and Larne) were cancelled at 7.30am this morning (Thursday 17 March).

P&O this afternoon released a statement saying:

"We have made a £100m loss year on year, which has been covered by our parent DP World. This is not sustainable. Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now.

"Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries."

The firm, which carries 15% of all freight cargo in and out of the UK, is owned by port operator DP World and had earlier denied rumours it was going into liquidation.

Mass redundancies

P&O confirmed reports that it was making 800 staff redundant "with enhanced severance packages" because of the lack of notice. 

Union RMT said crew members were being "replaced with foreign labour," and urged staff not to leave P&O ships, the BBC reported.  

Dover disruption

Trucks due to sail between Dover and Calais were directed to rival ferry firms DFDS, Irish Ferries, Stena Line and Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel.

Dover is the main port for freight to travel to the EU.

Amid the disruption in Dover and other UK ports this morning, transport minister Grant Shapps MP tweeted other operators could continue to carry goods and passengers:

“I am very concerned about the news from P&O Ferries this morning and we will be speaking to the company today to understand the impact on workers and passengers.

“Important to note other operators continue to run cross Channel routes, so passengers and goods can flow, but I am working with the Kent Resilience Forum to minimise disruption.”

Logistics UK said that “logistics businesses, which are known for their flexibility, are using alternative carriers where available, but some delays are unavoidable”.

Pandemic slump

P&O employs almost 4,000 staff and carried more than 10 million passengers a year before the pandemic and about 15% of all freight cargo in and out of the UK.

It saw demand slump in the pandemic, forcing it to announce 1,110 job cuts after it failed to secure a £150m bailout from the government. The government turned down its request for help after it was reported to have paid dividends of £270m to its owners, reported the Telegraph at the time.

‘Alternative operators’

At 7.30am P&O tweeted to passengers:

“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.”

A spokesperson quoted in The Independent said: "P&O Ferries is not going into liquidation. 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."

Dubai-based DP World is responsible for the loading and discharge of containers from ships and operates UK border control posts.