Second P&O ferry detained at Dover for safety checks as minster threatens to block ‘brazen’ sacking of 800 seafarers

A SECOND P&O ferry is being detained after failing safety checks amid backlash over a move to sack 800 staff via Zoom.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it is inspecting P&O Ferries’ ship Pride of Kent at the Port of Dover to ensure it is safe to go to sea with its new crew, even without passengers or cargo.

The Pride of Kent is being detained by Maritime and Coastguard Agency surveyorsCredit: EPA

The ship failed safety checks amid backlash over a move to sack 800 staff via Zoom

The ship failed safety checks amid backlash over a move to sack 800 staff via ZoomCredit: PA

A full inspection would be required at a later date before it could resume commercial operations.

The company caused outrage after sacking its crews with no notice on March 17.

A “package of measures” will “block” P&O Ferries’ plan to replace 800 seafarers with agency workers paid below the UK’s minimum wage, according to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.

In a letter to P&O chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, Mr Shapps wrote: “I will be bringing a comprehensive package of measures to Parliament to ensure that seafarers are protected against these types of actions in the way that Parliament and this Government already intended.

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“Through that package, I intend to block the outcome that P&O Ferries has pursued, including paying workers less than the minimum wage.”

The measures could be unveiled on Wednesday.

It comes as another P&O ferry was detained after its crew were deemed “unfit to sail”, the UK’s coastguard has said.

The MCA said another of the firm’s vessels, European Causeway, remains under detention in Larne, Northern Ireland after “failures on crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crew training” were discovered.

The brutal moment bosses sacked 800 P&O Ferries staff via Zoom has triggered significant backlash.  

In a virtual speech a company chief told workers their contracts were terminated immediately following losses of more than £100 million. 

The pre-recorded video, which started at 11.10am this morning, lasted less than four minutes and saw all staff told they were losing their jobs. 

A P&O boss told staff: “The company has made the decision that its vessels going forward will be primarily crewed by a third party crew provider 

“Therefore I am sorry to inform you that this means your employment is terminated with immediate effect on the grounds of redundancy. 

“Your final day of employment is today.” 

‘CONTEMPT FOR WORKERS’

The minimum wage in the UK for people aged 23 and above is £8.91 per hour.

Mr Hebblethwaite, whose basic annual salary is £325,000, told MPs on March 24 the average pay of the agency crew is £5.50 per hour.

He said this is “an international seafaring model that is consistent with models throughout the globe and our competitors”.

Irish Ferries began operating on the Dover to Calais route in June 2021 in competition with P&O Ferries.

On March 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament: “We’re going to make sure that everybody working in the UK exclusive economic zone gets paid the living wage and we’ll do it as fast as we possibly can.”

Mr Shapps told Mr Hebblethwaite he has “one further opportunity” to reinstate the sacked workers on their previous wages.

He went on: “Our package of measures will prevent the law being broken, even when knowingly attempted.

“With this point in mind, I would also suggest that the deadline imposed on seafarers to respond to your redundancy offer by March 31 is dropped.

“Given that we intend to ensure such outcomes are prevented by laws, which we will ensure that you cannot simply choose to ignore, I believe you will be left with little choice but to reverse your decision in any case.”

Mr Shapps reiterated his call for him to resign, accusing him of “contempt for workers” and describing his position as “untenable”.

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