P&O Ferry Pride of Hull in Rotterdam Photo 115118550 © Thomas Lukassek Dreamstime.com
Pride of Hull in Europoort. © Thomas Lukassek Dreamstime.com

The lengthy truck queues have been cleared, with freight and passenger traffic now free-flowing, according to the port of Dover’s harbour board.

Traffic backlogs had been building since P&O Ferries sacked 800 seafaring staff in mid-March, with its three Dover-Calais ferries waiting for Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) inspections, reducing vessel capacity substantially on the Dover Strait.

“Over this recent challenging period, which has been further compounded by the Easter getaway, the port of Dover’s operations team has worked round the clock with ferry operators and local partners, including the Kent Resilience Forum, National Highways and Kent Police, to clear freight backlogs and get passengers on their way, while helping to minimise the impact on the local community and businesses as much as possible,” said a port statement.

Authorities in Dover said they had worked with just half the usual ferry capacity over the past week and two-thirds of normal space available over the weekend, to move freight and passenger traffic.

“Still operating within these constraints on capacity, 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 4am on Sunday morning.”

Nevertheless, Operation Brock and the Traffic Access Protocol, the Dover TAP, remain in operation in anticipation of major traffic flows over the coming days as the Easter passenger getaway increases in intensity.

“We are anticipating another busy week for tourist and freight traffic, and will continue to work with partners to help keep communities clear and passengers and goods moving,” said a port spokesperson.

Over the weekend, P&O Ferries tweeted that it would refund all fares paid by customers affected by the suspended P&O Ferries services on Dover to Calais over the weekend. In addition, the company will also pay the difference between the customer’s original ticket price and any new fare.

Meanwhile, the MCA says it will continue its inspections of P&O Ferries’ vessels this week, but even so the P&O fleet is not expected to re-enter service until Good Friday at the earliest.

Pride of Hull, which operates from Hull to Rotterdam in The Netherlands, has now been passed fit for operations, however, with Dutch dockers refusing to handle the vessel, it is expected that it will remain in Rotterdam for the time being.

Dutch dockers’ union the FNV confirmed that the Pride of Hull remained in Rotterdam’s Europoort, but added there were unconfirmed reports that the vessel would start operations tomorrow. P&O Ferries have not responded to The Loadstar‘s attempts to contact the company.

Pride of Hull is one of three P&O Ferries vessels registered with the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA), along with European Causeway and European Highlander, with the registry required to receive 30 days’ notice before redundancies take place.

The BMA told The Loadstar: “All Bahamas-flagged ships are required to comply with international conventions, and the affected ships are deemed to be in compliance with the relevant conventions, including Maritime Labour Convention 2006 provisions relating to seafarer employment onboard ships.

“The BMA is unable to comment on specific employment agreements, which are confidential to the seafarer and employer. As a responsible flag state, we are co-operating as appropriate with the UK authorities, but we are unable to comment on measures being taken under UK law.”

It added: “The action taken by P&O Ferries appears to be a breach of the Bermuda Merchant Shipping (Seafarer’s Employment) Regulations 2013, which implements part of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 in Bermuda, in that the period of notice required to terminate a seafarer’s employment agreement was not adhered to.

“This matter has been referred to the department of public prosecution for review.”

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