UK MCA Detains P&O Ferry as Prime Minister Calls for CEO’s Resignation

UK MCA detains P&O ferry after crew inspection
P&O ferry European Causeway was detained by UK MCA after a crew inspection (Albert Bridge photo CC BY-SA 2.0)

Published Mar 25, 2022 10:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

Late on Friday, UK regulators announced they had detained one of P&O Ferries’ vessels as the company struggled to get back into service after firing its crews to replace them lower-paid crew from agencies. The news of the detention came after government officials and union leaders had urged increased safety inspections for the ferries and the UK Prime Minister said he believed the company’s chief executive should resign.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency issued a brief statement saying, “We can confirm that the European Causeway has been detained in Larne. It has been detained due to failures on crew familiarization, vessel documentation, and crew training. The vessel will remain under detention until all these issues are resolved by P&O Ferries.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps Tweeted a message confirming the detention after he had previously instructed the MCA to focus on safety issues and ensure the replacement crews were properly trained before passenger services resumed. Shapps has been vocal in his criticism of the company and its actions insisting that the company failed to make proper notice before dismissing 800 crewmembers without notice. Shapps said the government would also review its contracts with P&O and expressed his personal views that the CEO of the company, Peter Hebblethwaite, needed to resign.

A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office was asked if Boris Johnson agreed with Shapp’s calls for the resignation. They confirmed that the prime minister backed the calls for the resignation after the company’s CEO admitted in a meeting with members of parliament that the company had failed to meet requirements by not consulting with the authorities or providing advance notice of its plans. In addition to its disregard for the requirements, the company is also being accused of attempting to buy off the employees with liberal severance packages.

Hebblethwaite apologized for the actions but said the company had no choice as the company was faced with bankruptcy and administration if it did not take a bold move. BBC is reporting that the CEO circulated a statement inside the company today telling them "this type of dismissal could not and would not happen again." However, BBC said that he asserted that there had been no criminal offense but failed to meet the obligation to consult with authorities.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) met with P&O executives on Friday but reported that the meeting lasted less than 20 minutes. “P&O were not prepared to listen to any scenario or develop any idea that would provide a means to create a solution to the current disastrous situation,” the union reported after the meeting. “RMT will continue to press the government for an immediate intervention by whatever means necessary to make P&O perform a U-turn and get our members reinstated.”

The ferry company has been struggling to get some of its vessels back into service. Yesterday, the Pride of Hull sailed to Rotterdam after 82 crewmembers had been replaced, but the vessel proceeded without passengers or cargo. The MCA said that it conducted an inspection before the vessel departed the UK, but the Ro/Ro ferry has remained docked in the Netherlands since its arrival.

P&O Ferries is continuing to advise, “We are still experiencing some disruption however we are working to minimize the impact on your journey.“ They are saying that limited service is being restored between Hull and Rotterdam and that service between Liverpool and Dublin has been restored. However, the busiest route between Dover and Calais remains suspended and after tonight’s detention service between Northern Ireland and Scotland is again suspended.


Top photo by Albert Bridge (CC BY-SA 2.0 License)