In the wake of the appalling conduct by P&O Ferries in sacking 800 employees via video link on 17 March 2022, scrutiny of the company’s ferry operations has been considerable.

P&O Ferries’ fleet looks somewhat dated when compared to that of many competitors on the North Sea and English Channel passenger and ro-ro routes.

On the English Channel DFDS recently took delivery of a new E-Flexer for the Calais service, while Stena Line have also started operating new E-Flexers on its various Irish Sea routes, with both companies being direct competitors to P&O.

In order to remain competitive P&O probably need to not just reduce crew costs but also offer a better product. However, P&O Ferries is investing a considerable amount in a pair of newbuildings, currently under construction in China, as replacements for 30-year-old ships on the Dover-Calais service.

Competitors Brittany Ferries, DFDS, Irish Ferries and Stena Line all operate fleets with a much lower age profile. P&O Ferries’s vessel average about 25 years old, while the average fleet age of the competition is between 16 and 18 years.

Brittany Ferries is undertaking a significant fleet modernisation programme by bareboat chartering newbuildings contracted by Stena in China and which have been tailored for Brittany Ferries’ own specific requirements.

DFDS recently stated that it was actively seeking to order new, possibly battery-powered, tonnage to replace the four ships built in 2005 and 2006 and presently deployed on its Dover-Dunkirk service.

Meanwhile, P&O Ferries’ freight services have become more reliant on chartered tonnage, while the Hull-Zeebrugge passenger and freight service was closed during the pandemic, with the two ships involved, Pride of Bruges and Pride of York, being sold.

P&O Ferries’ other chartered tonnage, dedicated to the unaccompanied trailer market and serving Middlesbrough (Teesport) and Tilbury to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, has been operating normally.

P&O Ferries’ Netherlands-flag operations, also not affected by the recent crewing issue, provide two ships to the fleet, part of its legacy of a partnership between P&O and the Nedlloyd Group.

The Netherlands-flag Norbank has been operating normally on her Dublin-Liverpool service since 19 March, but its other Netherlands-flag ship Pride of Rotterdam has been out of action since last week’s announcement of job cuts and is currently in Rotterdam.

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