All aspects of its UK business are under the microscope as P&O Ferries conduct a major review of operations. Chief executive Helen Deeble explained: ‘Trading conditions are extremely tough due to the state of the economy across Europe. There has also been major competitor activity in the Irish Sea which has hit results hard. So, as we start to plan our budgets for 2013, it is clear that we need to reassess our operations. We believe there is significant room for improvement in performance, both on revenue generation and costs.’

The eight-week review began in September, looking particularly at areas including revenue generation and costs, with P&O saying what are described as significant increases in pension contributions to a number of schemes have added to pressure on finances.

P&O’s last major review in 2004 resulted in route closures and the loss of almost 2,000 jobs. It sparked a complete withdrawal from the Western Channel, with routes from Portsmouth to Cherbourg closed at the end of 2004 and Portsmouth-Le Havre in 2005 before Portsmouth-Bilbao halted in 2010. Closures on the Irish Sea were the Dublin-Mostyn and Larne-Troon freight services, while the Fleetwood–Larne freight route was sold to Stena Line.