One P&O Dover-Calais cleared to sail but services still suspended

The Spirit of Britain ship has passed safety checks but the news comes amid a new row over agency crew pay

P&O Ferries the Spirit of Britain ship has been cleared to sail again
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One P&O ferry has been cleared to sail again on the Dover to Calais route after being detained by UK authorities.

The Spirit of Britain failed a safety inspection by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on April 12, just before the busy Easter weekend.

It was followed by the Pride of Kent, which also failed safety checks after “a number of deficiencies including in safety systems and crew documentation” were uncovered.

Read more: Blow to Easter travel to France as second P&O ferry detained at Dover

After the company sacked 800 UK crew members with no notice on March 17, every P&O ship was required to pass a safety inspection before it could return to sea with its new agency staff.

The first two ships to pass these inspections were the Pride of Hull, which travels to Rotterdam from the northeastern port, and European Causeway, which operates crossings between Larne and Cairnryan.

The Norbay, which runs between Liverpool and Dublin, has also been cleared to sail.

The MCA has now stated that the Spirit of Britain “has been released from detention and can commence operations when P&O Ferries are ready.”

However, ferries are still cancelled on the Dover-Calais route today, with P&O Tweeting this morning: “Our services remain suspended today, however we have secured space with DFDS.

“Please call us on 01304 44 88 88 and we will rebook you. Alternatively, if you do not wish to travel, please email and we will process a refund for you.”

The company said on Friday (April 22) that crossings would not resume until after April 28 at least, but they could now restart tomorrow (April 26).

The Pride of Kent is still under detention and the two other P&O ferries which operate on this route are waiting to be inspected.

When P&O initially suspended crossings on the day of the crew member sackings, the disruption was only expected to last for 10 days.

Despite the continued P&O suspension, the Port of Dover has said that traffic is free-flowing so far today. All scheduled DFDS services are running on time.

P&O accused of trying to cut worker pay

The Spirit of Britain’s clearance to sail comes as the company is forced to backtrack on an alleged attempt to pay its new agency workers less.

RMT Union received reports of Dover workers being asked to sign new contracts offering reduced payment.

One Romanian crew member told the union that they were currently being made to work without a contract [on the Spirit of Britain] after their old one expired.

"This is my sixth day working without a contract, please help us!" they reportedly wrote in an email.

"They try to give us less money. We are desperate.”

This situation was reported to the MCA, which ensured that the original salaries were maintained.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was "good P&O have reversed [the] further attempt at a pay cut", but added that "they must go much further and pay the minimum wage like all UK businesses.”

"We will legislate to force them, but they could win back some much needed credibility by acting now," he said.

RMT told the BBC that P&O was “desperate to keep the new crew on board because they’ve been on board for four weeks now and are beginning to have familiarity with the vessels. They need familiarity to get them sailing again.”

P&O has not responded to requests for comment.

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