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Protesters Call on UK Government Action As P&O Ferries Reopens Dublin-Liverpool Route

20th March 2022
A maritime union has urged the UK Government to revoke P&O Ferries' licence in British waters following reopening of the Liverpool-Dublin route yesterday. Above file image P&O Ferries ropax Norbank departing the operator's Irish terminal at Dublin Port's North Wall extension when underway for Liverpool. A maritime union has urged the UK Government to revoke P&O Ferries' licence in British waters following reopening of the Liverpool-Dublin route yesterday. Above file image P&O Ferries ropax Norbank departing the operator's Irish terminal at Dublin Port's North Wall extension when underway for Liverpool. Credit: Jehan Ashmore

In the UK, a maritime union has urged the Transport Secretary to revoke P&O Ferries' licences in British waters as the operator resumed services on one of its routes to Ireland.

P&O has said its services between Liverpool and Dublin have resumed as of Saturday afternoon.

Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson has written to Grant Shapps encouraging the British Government to take urgent action against the ferry operator after it sacked 800 workers on (17th March). It is understood around 60 of those workers are from Ireland, with 25 from the Republic and 35 from Northern Ireland.

In a letter, published on Twitter, Mr Dickinson called for Mr Shapps to "hold P&O to account" in six ways, including revoking its licences to operate in British waters and pursuing "any legal option available" over how P&O handled the mass redundancies.

He wrote: "The action of P&O Ferries, terminating the employment of 800 British seafarers with immediate effect and without any consultation, is deplorable and a betrayal of British workers.

"This decision by P&O is a major blow to the British maritime industry... we cannot sit back and allow P&O Ferries to sink the nation's maritime strategy."

Mr Shapps wrote to Peter Hebblethwaite, chief executive of P&O, on Friday and said he was "questioning the legality of this move" and reviewing P&O Ferries' contracts.

It comes after the ferry operator said it was cutting the jobs in a "very difficult but necessary" decision as it was "not a viable business" in its current state.

Sailings were halted on Thursday morning following the announcement, with P&O Ferries telling passengers they would remain suspended "for the next few days".

However on Saturday, P&O said it had resumed one of its services crossing the Irish Sea. (Afloat adds this service of Dublin-Liverpool involved the Dutch flagged ropax Norbank whose seafarers are not part of the dispute due to different employment law based in the Netherlands). 

The has more including a statement issued by P&O Ferries over the crewing arrangements. 

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!