Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Boss of P&O Ferries Admits He Couldn't Live on £4.87 an Hour

8th May 2024
The boss of P&O Ferries, Peter Hebblethwaite, earned more than half a million pounds last year. Above: amidships of newbuild P&O Liberté, which officially joined its twin Fusion-class fleetmate, P&O Pioneer, on the company’s flagship Dover-Calais service, as Afloat previously reported.
The boss of P&O Ferries, Peter Hebblethwaite, earned more than half a million pounds last year. Above: amidships of newbuild P&O Liberté, which officially joined its twin Fusion-class fleetmate, P&O Pioneer, on the company’s flagship Dover-Calais service, as Afloat previously reported. Credit: poferries-facebook

The boss of P&O Ferries admitted at a Westminster committee hearing, that he couldn't live on the £4.87 an hour some of its crew are paid, he told MPs at the Houses of Parliament.

Chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite also revealed at the Commons' Business and Trade Committee that he earned more than £500,000 last year, including a bonus.

The chief executive faced several questions during the hearing over workers' rights and protection, and on P&O's decision in 2022 to axe hundreds of workers (including the Irish Sea) without notice and replace them with lower paid agency staff.

He added that he was deeply sorry for the redundancies and claimed "we would not make that decision again."

The mass sacking by P&O Ferries, known for its key UK-France route of Dover-Calais, gained notoriety when the ferry operator made 786 staff and seafarers redundant before replacing them with people on lower wages.

The dramatic, sudden move across its entire ferry network, also affecting the North Sea, led to a public outcry and prompted the UK government to create legislation aimed at preventing similar mass sackings from happening in the future.

More BBC News reports on the ferry scandal.

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

Email The Author

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. 

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven't put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full-time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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!