P&O ferries announced on Thursday morning that all of its sailings would be halted ahead of a “major announcement”.
The announcement came later on Thursday and was that 800 seafaring staff had been fired with immediate effect.
The company said that no services will operate “in the next few days” and advised people who had already booked crossings to use other services.
Passengers who have crossings booked on the Dover/Calais route are advised on the P&O website to turn up at the port as planned and head to the check-in for rival firm DFDS.
The company says: “We will arrange to get you away on an alternative carrier as soon as possible” – although it’s not clear whether this will incur an extra charge.
Today we've announced changes to P&O Ferries. While we make these changes, many of our services will not be running over the next few days. Please visit our website for information on https://t.co/r7s0UAt1Js
— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) March 17, 2022
A statement from the company read: “P&O Ferries plays a critical role in keeping trade flowing, supply chains moving, and connecting families and friends across the North and Irish seas and the English Channel. We have been at the heart of this service for years and we are committed to serving these vital routes.
“However, in its current state, P&O Ferries is not a viable business.
“We have made a £100m 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.
“These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which was only taken after seriously considering all the available options. As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices and will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.
“In making this tough decision, we are securing the future viability of our business which employs an additional 2,200 people and supports billions in trade in and out of the UK. And we are ensuring that we can continue serving our customers in a way that they have demanded from us for many years.”
The announcement refers to 800 British staff, with French press reporting that P&O employees in France were not affected by the job losses.
Like many transport firms, P&O has been hard-hit by the pandemic, and was forced to run greatly reduced services for large parts of 2020 and 2021.
Even once lockdowns were lifted, restrictive travel conditions imposed by both France and the UK have had a major impact on cross-Channel trips.
P&O operates services between France and the UK, as well as Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands.
We will update this story when more information becomes available.