Following the sacking of 800 staff a couple of weeks ago, P&O Ferries is making efforts to restart their operations across the English Channel, the North Sea and in the Irish Sea.

However, the cross-Channel ship Pride of Kent was detained in Dover by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency after she failed safety checks, and P&O Ferries said its Dover-Calais route would stay suspended until 31 March.

The RMT Union believes there were multiple safety and operational breaches, including the wearing of breathing apparatus, and demanded again that the Government seize the entire fleet and take action to get them back in service with the sacked crew reinstated.

General Secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘The seizing of the Pride of Kent by the MCA should be adequate evidence for the Government that P&O are not fit and proper to run a safe service after the jobs massacre.

‘It’s rare enough for the MCA to impound a ferry, but P&O have now had two in a week after the jobs carve up which speaks volumes about the dire state of their operation.

‘It’s now high time for these important vessels to be taken over under public control with the sacked crews reinstated as the only way to get these crucial ferry routes back running safely.’

Kent was the second P&O ship to be detained after European Causeway failed a safety inspection and was detained in Larne in Northern Ireland.

However, the other P&O ship on this route, European Highlander, left Cairnryan at 1500 on 26 March and was also taken to Larne.

Meanwhile, on 28 March the UK government was looking at ways to force ferry operators to pay the country’s national minimum wage in and thus force P&O Ferries to reverse the sacking.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite he would bring a package of measures to parliament ‘to ensure that seafarers are protected against these types of actions’.

‘The past week has left the reputation of P&O Ferries and, I’m afraid, you personally in tatters,’ Mr Shapps added, referring to Mr Hebblethwaite’s appearance last week before a parliamentary committee of lawmakers at which he admitted to deliberately breaking the law in failing to warn the government, flag states and unions of the sackings.

The UK minimum wage is £8.91 ($11.68) an hour for workers aged over 23. P&O Ferries hired agency staff to work for £5.50 an hour to replace sacked workers.

It comes as rival ferry operators Stena Line and DFDS were due to meet government officials and unions to discuss how to keep services running.

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