P&O says its daily Irish Sea service between Liverpool and Dublin is being axed. Tony McDonough reports
P&O Ferries is to axe its Liverpool to Dublin ferry route by the end of 2023.
P&O says it has been able to reach agreement with Port of Liverpool owner Peel Ports over a docklands berth beyond 2023.
Currently served by two vessels, Norbank and Norbay, the route currently operates 24 sailings between Liverpool and Dublin each week, carrying mainly freight and commercial traffic.
Once the service has gone at the end of the year there will be only one route linking the two ports. Seatruck’s freight-only service sees up to three sailings a day from Brocklebank Dock.
In the last few years Stena has also axed its Birkenhead to Dublin route. However it still sails twice a day to and from Belfast.
In a statement P&O Ferries said: “P&O Ferries regrets to announce that due to the unavailability of a berth in Liverpool for next year, it is our intention to close our Liverpool-Dublin route towards the end of 2023.
“The owner of the Port of Liverpool has informed us that our current berth will no longer be available after the end of 2023.
“Without agreement with the port owner to provide a berth in Liverpool, it is impossible for P&O Ferries to continue operating on this route.
“Extensive negotiations with the owner of our Liverpool site to extend our lease at the port or find an alternative site for our Liverpool-Dublin service to operate from have been unsuccessful.
“P&O Ferries is committed to serving our Irish Sea customers and has explored all options to continue sailing on this route.
“Unfortunately, despite the utmost efforts by P&O Ferries to find a viable solution, no suitable alternative has been offered that would enable us to maintain the current service into 2024.”
In March 2022 the company was widely condemned when it made 800 workers redundant with immediate effect. The company insisted the move was necessary to save the business which it claims was haemorrhaging cash.
It faced a barrage of criticism from trade unions, including Nautilus and the RMT, politicians of all parties and senior maritime industry figures including Mersey Maritime chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke.
This week’s statement added: “We are saddened by our forced withdrawal from this route, which will reduce competition and the choice of sailings available to customers on a crossing where there is currently only one alternative operator.
“The route, served by two P&O Ferries vessels making an overall 24 sailings a week, is principally used to transport freight between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.”
It is reported that P&O is starting a consultation process with the staff that will be affected by the closure.