Update 16.12.20: P&O Ferries has confirmed that the Hull – Zeebrugge ferry service will cease to operate as of January 1st 2021. The laid up PRIDE OF YORK was recently moved from Hull to Rotterdam. PRIDE OF BRUGES continues as the sole ferry on the route. It appears that the company will continue to offer a LoLo container service between Hull and Zeebrugge for freight customers.
Ferry Company Also Confirms it currently has No Plans to Return to a Full Capacity Dover Operation
P&O Ferries announced to staff yesterday afternoon that it is proposing to “close entirely” its Hull – Zeebrugge route it has been learned. The route, which is known to have been loss making for a number of years, has been heavily impacted by COVID-19.
It is understood that both Ro-Pax ferries on the route, PRIDE OF YORK and PRIDE OF BRUGES, are planned to be disposed of. The company is also understood to have began consultations with unions regarding redundancies. It is not yet clear what the exact number of employees affected will be.
The news, which follows an earlier round of redundancies and additional furloughing of staff, comes as the company battles to cut costs in order to secure its future. Like all ferry operators, P&O Ferries has suffered a large drop in traffic as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Zeebrugge route is particularly reliant on passengers though also carries a significant amount of freight. The company plans to continue its busier Hull – Rotterdam route.
Dover Ships Permanently Axed?
Dover-based P&O Ferries is also understood to have confirmed to staff that it does not intend for either PRIDE OF BURGUNDY or EUROPEAN SEAWAY to return to service. The ships normally serve the busy Dover-Calais shuttle service. Both ships are currently laid up, with ‘Burgundy’ in Leith and ‘Seaway’ at Tilbury.
A third ship, PRIDE OF CANTERBURY is currently at a shipyard in Rotterdam having previously been laid up at Leith. She is expected to return to service on October 13 in ‘freight only mode’.
The company is understood to have told staff that it does not envision a future operating any more than four ships between Dover and Calais. PRIDE OF CANTERBURY will join sister-ship PRIDE OF KENT and the larger and newer SPIRIT OF FRANCE and SPIRIT OF BRITAIN on the route.
P&O Ferries was contacted yesterday evening for comment. This will be added below when a reply is received. According to the Hull Daily Mail the company has confirmed that they “are having to take difficult action in which some jobs may be made redundant but thousands more jobs will be saved“. P&O Ferries has previously publicly stated that losses due to COVID-19 have put the entire company at risk.
Update 01.10.20 @ 16:20: A P&O Ferries spokesperson said:
“Due to the extended impact of Covid19, we are having to take further difficult action in which some jobs will be made redundant – but as a result thousands more jobs will be saved. These necessary steps will ensure we are a slimmer and more agile business that is better able to give customers the service they want and the value they demand.”
Update 01.10.20 @ 11:30: The General Secretary of the RMT Union, Mick Cash, has said the following:
“In the summer, P&O Ferries received over £6.6m from the taxpayer on the two Port of Hull routes, including Hull-Zeebrugge. This does not need to happen but P&O’s owners in Dubai have pulled the plug on this vital route with no consultation, threatening jobs, passenger services and the recovery of Hull’s maritime economy.
“We have consistently warned the Government that they need to protect seafarer jobs on international ferry routes from further attacks but they have failed to take action. This must change and all Ratings jobs lost from the closure of the Hull-Zeebrugge route must transfer to the Pride of Rotterdam on the Hull-Rotterdam route.
“Our members must not be denied these jobs by crewing contracts that pay below the national minimum wage.”