UPDATE 26.01.19: SPIRIT OF BRITAIN and SPIRIT OF FRANCE are both now flying the Cypriot flag. The latter returned to Dover from dry-docking in Hamburg earlier today.
The change means ferry operator Will No longer Have any ferries on the UK flag
Ferry operator P&O Ferries officially confirmed to the UK media yesterday that they are to reflag their entire Dover fleet from the UK to Cyprus, as reported in our updated article earlier this month. Initially, the company had only announced they would reflag their flagships SPIRIT OF BRITAIN and SPIRIT OF FRANCE, however following further review they will now move all six vessels to the Cypriot register. The company have also reiterated that no changes to crew terms and conditions are planned as a result of the move. SPIRIT OF BRITAIN has already been reflagged, with Limassol replacing Dover as her port of registry.
The vessels involved in the exercise are
- SPIRIT OF BRITAIN
- SPIRIT OF FRANCE
- PRIDE OF BURGUNDY
- PRIDE OF KENT
- PRIDE OF CANTERBURY
- EUROPEAN SEAWAY
In a statement to the media, P&O Ferries said
“In advance of Britain leaving the European Union on March 29, 2019, we undertook a review of the flag status of our ships on the English Channel,”
“For operational and accounting reasons, we have concluded that the best course of action is to reflag all ships to be under the Cyprus flag.
“The Cyprus flag is on the ‘white list’ of both the Paris and Tokyo Memoranda of Understanding, resulting in fewer inspections and delays, and will result in significantly more favourable tonnage tax arrangements as the ships will be flagged in an EU member state.
“We have no plans to make any other changes, including the terms and conditions of any of our seafarers, as a result of the new arrangements.”
Despite the statement specifically saying that terms and conditions of seafarers will not change as a result of this move, the UK’s RMT union has demanded reassurances that the terms and conditions of their members will remain unchanged and have suggested that the company may seek to introduce a low-cost crewing model. P&O Ferries Dover operation competes directly with that of DFDS who operate to both Calais and Dunkirk with vessels flagged in the UK and France. The move means that UK based (but Dubai owned) P&O Ferries will no longer have any UK flagged ferries in its fleet. In addition to the six Dover vessels flagged in Cyprus, the company have five vessels registered in The Bahamas (including EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER and EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY), three in The Netherlands, and one (NORBAY) registered in Bermuda. They also charter five freight vessels for North Sea services, all of which fly the Finnish flag. P&O Ferries are not the only ferry company not to flag any of their vessels in a country which they do not sail to, however, with other notable examples being Irish Ferries and Polish state-owned Polferries.