P&O Ferries must 'start to deliver' after landing share of £77m Government contracts

P&O Ferries should be forced to keep the Hull-Zeebrugge route open after it was handed a "lucrative" Government contract, according to an MP.

The Pride of York moored at The King George Dock in Hull

Earlier this month it emerged that P&O Ferries was looking to scrap the North Sea route and sell the two ships, Pride of Bruges and Pride of York, that normally make the nightly 14-hour crossing.

On Tuesday the Department for Transport announced that it has signed agreements worth a total of £77.6 million with the firm, along with Brittany Ferries, DFDS and Stena Line to ensure the “smooth” flow of vital supplies into the UK after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

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The contracts, which secure freight capacity on routes including to Hull and Teeside, which are less likely to face disruption than Channel ports, will be in place for up to six months.

Seen from the bridge, the P&O North Sea Ferry 'Pride of York' leaves the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium for one of her nightly crossings to Hull. Picture: Terry Carrott

Hull East MP Karl Turner said P&O had already had £1.2 million from Government for freight contracts on the Hull-Zeebrugge route during lockdown, and it was time for the operator to “start to deliver”.

He said: “This is another example of P&O taking lucrative Government contracts but unfortunately not delivering in terms of protecting the route which is important to businesses in Hull and the surrounding area.

“This is another blow to hardworking British seafarers during Maritime Week, P&O can’t keep taking with one hand and giving nothing back with the other.

“The Government should be forcing P&O to keep the route open if they are getting a big chunk of these £77 million post Brexit monies.”

P&O Ferries has started a consultation over 81 redundancies, including 16 ratings on the Pride of York and 37 in Dover, where two other ships face the axe on the Calais route.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said Government support “must be on the condition” that seafarer jobs in coastal communities are protected.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps, said: "As the transition period comes to an end, we are putting the necessary measures in place to safeguard the smooth and successful flow of freight.

"Securing these contracts ensures that irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations, life-saving medical supplies and other critical goods can continue to enter the UK from the moment we leave the EU."

The contracts were awarded using the Government's freight capacity framework which involves a shortlist of "experienced freight operators" entering bids.

Should the freight capacity not be required, termination costs "would reflect a fraction of the full contract amount", the DfT said.

P&O declined to comment.