Why has P&O cancelled all of its ferries and who owns P&O?

Why has P&O cancelled all of its ferries?
(Image credit: Getty)

Why has P&O cancelled all of its ferries? Travellers have been left confused after the ferry operator announced that it was immediately cancelling all services. 

Holidaymakers seeking city breaks and business travellers have had their travel plans thrown into chaos this morning after the company made the shock announcement last minute to keep all of its fleet anchored in the ports.

There are 14 disrupted P&O services which were scheduled to run today (17th March) - these include 14 between Dover and Calais and three between Liverpool and Dublin as we look at why they've been kept docked on St Patrick's Day...

Why has P&O cancelled all of its ferries?

P&O has cancelled ALL of its ferries "in preparation for a company announcement" in which P&O Ferries confirmed that all 800 staff will be sacked with immediate effect and as a result it has cancelled services for the "next few days". 

The company stressed that crew will be given enhanced packages to compensate for "the lack of advance notice" and revealed the business is "not viable" in its current state. A statement added: "Our survival is dependent on making swift and significant changes.”

It is understood the steps are needed to help plug a £100million black hole. The chaos unfolded this morning when workers were told to expect "serious disruption" at all of its ports. Passengers were then booted off ferries and told to await "further instructions" before the company announced that services have been suspended "for the next few days". "We are advising travellers of alternative arrangements," they added.

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Prior to the announcement, the ferry operator has confirmed that it is NOT going into liquidation but all of its vessels have been instructed to stay in their ports.

The company tweeted, "Regretfully, P&O Ferries services are unable to run for the next few hours. Our Port Teams will guide you and travel will be arranged via an alternative operator. We apologise for the inconvenience this will have on your journey plans."

A spokesperson added, "P&O Ferries is not going into liquidation. We have asked all ships to come alongside, in preparation for a company announcement. Until then, services from P&O will not be running and we are advising travellers of alternative arrangements."

As a result the cross-Channel operator has said on Twitter that sailings between Dover and Calais scheduled for 11:10am, 11:15am and 12:35pm today will no longer run, and customers with tickets were instructed to check-in to rival ferry company DFDS' services.

The PM's official spokesman said Department for Transport ministers are holding urgent discussions with P&O.

It said, "It is obviously concerning for P&O workers. The company is not ceasing to operate and DFT is speaking with them to understand what the potential impact is. So there will be further updates."

But customers are fuming at the short notice.

One tweeted, "But who is going to let us know and when please? We were meant to be on the 6:30 ferry, sat here since 5:30 and not one person has explained anything?"

P&O spokesperson replied on Twitter to inform the passenger that they would be "sailing with DFDS" instead.

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Another Twitter user shared details from a company announcement, which reads, "We will be making a major company announcement today which, with the support of our shareholder DP world, will secure the long-term viability of P&O Ferries.

"To facilitate this announcement all our vessels have been asked to discharge their passengers and cargo and standby for further instructions."

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Are P&O ferries still running from Hull?

P&O ferries are not still running from Hull as the ferry operator announced that it was temporarily suspending all of its services today, pending a company announcement. P&O Ferries previously confirmed that the Hull – Zeebrugge ferry service will cease to operate as of January 1st 2021. The laid up Pride of York was recently moved from Hull to Rotterdam. Pride of Bruges continues as the sole ferry on the route but all services across the UK have been cancelled from today (17th March) awaiting an update.

Hull MP @KarlTurnerMP said, "P&O Ferries have apparently instructed their crews both ratings and officers to tie up vessels as they are making a ‘major’ announcement today."

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How many P&O Ferries are there?

There are more than 20 P&O Ferries that operate more than 30,000 sailings a year. In addition to sailing on eight major routes including England to France, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Holland, it also operates intermodal continental hubs at Zeebrugge and Europoort. The name P&O is an abbreviation of the full company name The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company as it started out as The Peninsular Steam Navigation Company. Meanwhile, 1840 "Oriental" was added to reflect the company's expanding services eastwards as it scheduled in trips beyond the Iberian Peninsular to Egypt and the Orient.

Who owns P&O Ferries?

P&O Ferries is owned by DP World which bought back the British ferry and shipping freight operator P&O Ferries for £322 million, more than a decade after it sold it. The firm first acquired the British shipping and logistics company in 2006 but DP World soon sold off some assets, including P&O Ferries to its major shareholder, state holding company Dubai World.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)