P&O Ferries’ NORBAY was prevented from leaving Liverpool this morning as the result of a dispute over a payment due to Mersey Dock and Harbour Company P&O Ferries has confirmed. The Peel Ports subsidiary claims that it is owed almost £600,000. P&O Ferries disputes the amount and says the demand for payment and detention is a sudden escalation after discussions with the port authorities had been taking place. The ferry operator also claims that there was no reasonable warning and proper procedure wasn’t followed. The company also claims that their point of contact at MD&HC was furloughed without P&O Ferries being notified.
A spokesman for P&O said:
“We have been in open discussions since this crisis began with all of our ports and network to ensure that we can manage payments while everyone deals with this unprecedented situation.
“We had asked for flexibility in the time required to pay but the Liverpool port refused to respond, even though we were committing to full payment.
“Then we learned that our point of contact had been furloughed and they didn’t tell us.
“The irresponsible and unnecessary actions of The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company Limited at a time of national crisis have closed an essential Liverpool-Dublin supply route, which means vital goods will not be able to flow between the UK, Ireland, and Europe.”
Like all ferry operators, P&O Ferries has suffered a huge drop in traffic as a result of the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis. The company has already cut some sailings and furloughed over 1,000 employees and topped up their salary to full basic pay and are having discussions with nine unions in five countries to keep as many jobs as possible. The company say it is critical to maintaining the UK’s supplies and is a vital part of our ability as a country to respond to coronavirus, and bring in about 15% of all the goods that the UK uses, including large volumes of food and medical supplies. In a recent article in “The Times” newspaper it was claimed that P&O Ferries operations in the English Channel, North Sea, and Irish Sea are losing nearly £250,000 per day with the company seeking £150m of financial assistance from the UK Government. Reports from France, meanwhile, indicate freight traffic between Dover and Calais may be down by as much as 45%.
Key facts about the Norbay:
– Built: Rotterdam, 1992
– Length: 166.77m
– Gross tonnage: 17,464
– Passengers: 114
– Vehicles: 125 freight
– Crew: 57
– Decks: 5
Source: P&O Ferries Press Release.