[Update April 14 at 12:03 - P&O Ferries has now suspended all Dover-Calais services for this weekend, apologising 'unreservedly' to customers and offering a 25% discount if they wanted to rebook with another operator.]
The UK authorities have detained a second Dover to Calais P&O ferry after it failed an inspection. It is now highly unlikely the ship will be able to sail for the busy Easter weekend.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) had initially confined the Pride of Kent ship to port last month, but when inspectors carried out safety checks yesterday (April 14), they discovered a “number of deficiencies”.
The ferry will not be allowed to sail until these issues are resolved and another check takes place.
This comes just 24 hours after fellow Dover-Calais ferry the Spirit of Britain also failed safety checks, and has tempered hopes that the ferry operator may resume services for the Easter weekend.
P&O crossings have been suspended on the Dover-Calais route since the controversial sacking of 800 UK crew members on March 17.
#PODover #POCalais: Services today remain cancelled. For those with a confirmed P&O Ferries booking to travel today, please arrive at the port for the P&O sailing time booked. Once at the port please head to the DFDS booths (Dover) or P&O booths (Calais).,— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) April 14, 2022
They remain cancelled today (April 14), and affected passengers are being advised to “arrive at the port for the P&O sailing time booked. Once at the port please head to the DFDS booths (Dover) or P&O booths (Calais).”
However, the chief executive of the British Ports Association Richard Ballantyne told Sky News earlier this week that: “We’re expecting probably imminently an announcement about P&O going live again.”
P&O had also said that Dover-Calais ferries will remain suspended until Good Friday at the earliest.
However, the MCA has now stated: “The Pride of Kent will remain detained following the reinspection of the ferry [yesterday], which found a number of additional deficiencies including in safety systems and crew documentation.
"We have advised P&O to invite us back once they have addressed the issues. We do not know yet when this will be."
P&O has said that it is looking forward to welcoming back passengers as soon as its safety checks have been completed, but it is now unlikely that there will be enough time for another full inspection before Good Friday tomorrow.
Every P&O ship must pass a safety inspection before it can return to the sea, but so far the only two to have done so are the Pride of Hull, which travels to Rotterdam from the northeastern port, and European Causeway, which operates crossings between Larne and Cairnryan.
A P&O Ferries spokesperson told the BBC: “In the past few days both the European Causeway and the Pride of Hull have been deemed safe to sail by the MCA and we continue to work with all relevant authorities to return all our ships to service.”
"We take the safety of our passengers and crew very seriously and look forward to all of our ships welcoming tourist passengers and freight customers again as soon as all mandatory safety tests have been passed."
A busy weekend ahead at Dover
The news of the Spirit of Britain and Pride of Kent’s continued suspension comes as the Port of Dover prepares for an already busy Easter weekend.
A Port of Dover spokesperson told The Connexion that “this coming weekend will be busy,” but there may not be as many people leaving England for France as there were last weekend, which marked the beginning or middle of the Easter holidays for many.
Anyone travelling to France this weekend – between April 15 and 18 – is advised by the Port to get to Dover “in good time” but not necessarily too early, as this may disrupt the progress of passengers booked onto other sailings.
“We will continue to work with partners to help keep communities clear and passengers and goods moving,” the spokesperson said.
Since the news that the Pride of Kent has been detained again, the Port has issued a statement saying: “Tourists have been processed effectively during the last two weekends of the getaway period and we anticipate the same for this Easter weekend.”
Bad weather, school holiday traffic and the P&O Ferries disruption have all contributed to long tourist passenger queues in the port over recent weekends.
However, the Port’s spokesperson said that: “Port colleagues continue to work non-stop to minimise disruption and keep traffic flowing across the Channel, with all roads to the Port remaining free-flowing since 04:00 on Sunday morning (April 14).”
Traffic is still running smoothly this morning, according to the Port’s updates page.