UPDATE 14.01.19: Due to the amount of interest (and speculation) that the reflagging of the Dover fleet has attracted, I feel it is important to point out that a change of flag does NOT necessarily mean that there will be any changes to the crewing model used (as some are speculating). It is worth noting that P&O Ferries are on record as saying that there will be no changes to crew terms and conditions as a result of this move.
At present SPIRIT OF BRITAIN‘s sister-ship SPIRIT OF FRANCE is expected at Blohm & Voss tomorrow for dry-docking.
UPDATE 12.01.19: P&O Ferries Flagship, SPIRIT OF BRITAIN, left dry-dock at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg at around 8 pm tonight. Her port of registry is now Limassol.
UPDATE 10.01.19: Shippax has reported that P&O Ferries have confirmed that the entirety of the Dover fleet will be moving from the UK flag in 2019.
As reported last month on the Ferries! Facebook Group, Dover based ferry operator P&O Ferries have confirmed to Shippax that they are to move their Dover to Calais flagships SPIRIT OF BRITAIN and SPIRIT OF FRANCE to the Cypriot flag in “early 2019”. Until now the entire P&O Ferries Dover fleet has flown the British Flag. P&O Ferries have said that the change is being made in order to “preserve the tonnage tax financing arrangements, under which the ships should remain flagged in an EU member state” according to a spokesman speaking to Shippax. The change comes as the UK prepares to leave the EU at the end of March. P&O Ferries have told Shippax that no changes will be made to seafarers terms and conditions as a result of this change, and that the remainder of the Dover fleet will retain their U.K. registry. However, according to Marine Link and the Daily Express the flag state of the other Dover vessels is “under review”. SPIRIT OF BRITAIN is currently in dry-dock at Hamburg for her annual overhaul.
P&O Ferries Irish Sea vessels have of course not flown the U.K.’s Red Ensign for a number of years, with EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY and EUROPEAN HIGHLANDER both delivered flying the flag of The Bahamas. News outlets are reporting that under the Cyprus flag P&O will only have to pay tax on the tonnage of the vessels, rather than on the profits they make. This is corroborated by the Maritime Cyprus website which states:
“Cyprus has an extremely beneficial, EU-approved tonnage tax regime for qualifying international shipping operations. Tax is charged on the basis of the tonnage and the age of the vessel, rather than on income, with discounts if the crew and technical management of the ship is carried out by a ship management company registered in Cyprus or elsewhere in the European Union. The tonnage tax regime offers substantial savings compared with conventional taxation and applies automatically to Cyprus-registered ships. There is no tax on profits from the operation or management of a Cyprus-registered vessel or on dividends received from a vessel-owning company, and the wages of officers and crew are exempt from income tax. There is no capital gains tax on the sale or transfer of a Cyprus-registered vessel or the shares of a vessel-owning company, and no stamp duty on ship mortgage deeds or other security documents”https://maritimecyprus.com/2014/09/22/cyprus-ship-registration/
P&O Ferries also told Shippax last month that the move could also reduce potential inspections and delays [in the event of a no-deal Brexit]. Irish Ferries also fly the Cypriot flag on a number of their vessels, including ULYSSES and the brand new W.B. YEATS.