P&O says business ‘not viable” as it sacks 800

Liverpool to Dublin operator P&O says it has been forced to make 800 people redundant with immediate effect to save its business which has had to sustain losses of £100m. Tony McDonough reports

Stena Forecaster
Stena Forecaster, a P&O vessel on the Mersey. Picture by HowardLiverpool


P&O Ferries says its decision to sack 800 staff, including those operating its Liverpool to Dublin freight service, is necessary to save the business which it claims is haemorrhaging cash.

Dubai-based DP World had been forced to bail out the company, which also operates services from Dover to Calais, after it reported annual losses of £100m. DP World acquired P&O Ferries for £322m in 2019.

The company said: “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.”

Unions representing seafarers, the RMT and Nautilus International, reacted with fury on Thursday when P&O paused all of its services before confirming later that it was making 800 staff redundant and replacing them with agency workers.

As of late Thursday afternoon two of its Liverpool to Dublin vessels, Norbay and Norbank, were moored in Gladstone Dock in the Port of Liverpool. A third ship, Stena Forecaster, is in Liverpool Bay and is due to dock at Liverpool shortly.

In a statement P&O Ferries said: “P&O Ferries have today announced a programme of work to become a more competitive and efficient operator, providing a better service to our customers across the tourism and freight industries. 

“While we enact these changes, there will be significant disruption across P&O Ferries services over the next few days, however we are working to minimise the impact on your journey.”

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Both the RMT and Nautilus International have instructed their members to remain on board vessels and are demanding immediate intervention from the UK Government to stop the move.

RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “We have instructed our members to remain onboard and are demanding our members across P&O’s UK operations are protected and that the secretary of state intervenes to save UK seafarers from the dole queue.”


Freight vessel Norbank at the Port of Liverpool. Picture by HowardLiverpool


Nautilus International said the news was “a betrayal of British workers”. General secretary Mark Dickinson slammed the company’s behaviour and pledged to fight to defend the job cuts. He added:  “There was no consultation and no notice given by P&O. 

“Be assured the full resources of Nautilus International stand ready to act in defence of our members. We have instructed our members to stay onboard until further notice. Unions across the world stand with these workers today.”

Affiliates of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) also condemned P&O’s decision. General secretary of the ITF Stephen Cotton said: “The news today is shocking. In the strongest possible terms we condemn P&O.”

P&O is one of two operators running freight services between Liverpool and Dublin. Seatruck also runs ups to three services a day between the two ports using a number of vessels, including Clipper Point, Seatruck Progress and Seatruck Power.

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