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Agency crew walking off P&O Ferries, Nautilus learns

21 March 2022

Nautilus International has been informed that large numbers of agency crew brought in by P&O Ferries to replace the 800 British seafarers the company sacked have already walked off the job.

The Union has been informed that on one vessel there is now only a single replacement engineer remaining. The other five all left the ship after discovering that they had been hired to take the jobs of P&O crew who were thrown off the vessel last week.

Nautilus believes that this vessel is now breaching regulations by burning heavy fuel oil in port, as the crew are unfamiliar with the vessel’s operation.

Deck officers are also leaving, the Union has been informed, and the company is being forced to try recruiting from further afield to fill the gaps.

'The company has been producing crew lists and having to revise them immediately to strike off workers who have left the job,' Nautilus executive officer Martyn Gray said.

'The company are saying it will restart sailings from Dover on Thursday but we are sceptical that it will be able to do so. These actions by agency crew, acting in solidarity with the fired workers, are hindering the company. P&O must find a completely new crew for each vessel, and the people they do manage to recruit are leaving straightaway.'

P&O Ferries has claimed that having the vessels inactive is costing the company £1 million per day.

Recruiting an entirely new crew that can operate the vessel in a safe manner is almost impossible in the timescales proposed by P&O, Mr Gray added.

'For a single deck officer, familiarisation would normally take 5-7 days. Replacing the entire crew, though, is like taking a ship out of the yard for the first time – normally you would have a handover of 4-6 weeks, and that is with a yard team teaching you the ropes on a brand new ship. P&O Ferries is proposing to bring these vessels – which are all more than 10 years old – back into operation within just a week.

'Replying to enquiries by Nautilus, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) confirmed that it would carry out inspections of all eight vessels before they return to service, focusing on safety drills. For the Dover ferries in particular this is vital, as crossing the Channel is like trying to drive a bus across the M25 at rush hour – it is not a place for a crew with no experience of the vessel. We call on the MCA to honour the pledge it has made and to release all inspection reports to the public.'


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