Safety concerns raised as P&O Ferries hire agency workers 'unfamiliar with the vessels'

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Mark Dickinson, the general secretary of Nautilus International which represents some of those fired by P&O Cruises has urged the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to “make sure the ships are safe” as the new crews are “unfamiliar” with the vessels and routes.

Mr Dickinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “There are serious safety concerns, which is why the company cannot reintroduce services with the lower-paid agency crew that they’ve recruited via this company called International Ferry Management of Malta.

“They’re now responsible for the crew.

“They’re there now apparently, training the crew familiar familiarising them with the vessel operations.

“The maritime coastguard agency will have to be absolutely clear and confident that those new crew unfamiliar with the vessel unfamiliar with the route with the berths, with I mean, it crossed the English Channel just to pick that as an example the busiest shipping lane in the world. 

He added: “Hundreds of ships moving up and down the Channel, it is like walking across a six-lane motorway at rush hour.

“That’s what these guys who have to do 678 times a day, this is an intensely worrying situation and we’re ready to the maritime coastguard agency and we hope and we pray that they will do their job. I know they will.

“They will do their job and make sure the ships are safe.”

Peter Aylott, director of policy at the UK Chamber of Shipping, which represents the industry, told Today he was “very confident that P&O will have put procedures in place to ensure that the individuals that are going to be in control of those vessels will be familiar with the ships, familiar with the systems and will be competent and qualified to operate those vessels in a safe manner”.

Demonstrations are planned at ports in Dover, Liverpool and Hull as unions and politicians condemned the mass dismissal, blamed by the company on losses of £100 million following the slump in travel because of the pandemic.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said it was seeking legal advice to challenge the sackings.

Before suspending sailings, P&O Ferries operated four routes: Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam, Liverpool to Dublin, and Cairnryan, Scotland, to Larne, Northern Ireland.

It advised those already at Dover and Calais to make their way to the check-in booths for Danish firm DFDS, but there were no such instructions for those at Hull, Rotterdam, Liverpool, Dublin, Cairnryan or Larne.

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Announcing the decision on Thursday, the ferry operator, bought by Dubai-based logistics giant DP World in 2019, insisted the decision to cut jobs was “very difficult but necessary” as it was “not a viable business” in its current state.

It said in a statement: “We have made a £100 million loss year-on-year, which has been covered by our parent, DP World.

“This is not sustainable.

“Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes now. Without these changes there is no future for P&O Ferries.”



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