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P&O Ferries’ hopes of Dover crossings from Good Friday in doubt as ship ‘detained’ after inspection

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P&O Ferries’ hopes of resuming cross-Channel services between Dover and Calais later this week appear to have suffered a catastrophic blow after a ship was detained for “deficiencies”.

The company, universally condemned for its treatment of almost 800 seafarers who were sacked without notice last month, had planned for the Spirit of Britain’s new agency-led crew to begin crossings from Good Friday.

Such a move would have, potentially, enabled the company to support the effort to clear backlogs of freight traffic, mostly caused by the absence of its three Dover-based ships, and ferry Easter holidaymakers to France.

Freight lorries queue at the Port of Dover as P&O Ferries sailings remain suspended, after the ferry company sacked 800 workers without notice. Picture date: Tuesday April 12, 2022.
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Freight lorries queue at the Port of Dover on Tuesday

However, after a two-day reinspection of the Spirit of Britain by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), it was confirmed that it had failed a number of key safety tests and was declared not fit to be cleared for sea.

A spokesperson said: “The Spirit of Britain has been detained due to surveyors identifying a number of deficiencies which were grounds for detention.

“We have advised P&O to invite us back once they have addressed the issues. We do not know yet when this will be.”

It is unclear if the MCA was planning to imminently inspect the Pride of Canterbury or Pride of Kent, which also sail the Dover-Calais route in normal times.

The Pride of Hull, which operates between Hull and Rotterdam, and European Causeway, which runs between Larne and Cairnryan, are the only two P&O vessels to have been re-inspected and allowed back to service.

The Pride of Kent remains under detention while the rest are yet to be checked.

P&O Ferries was yet to comment.

Drills are carried out using safety chutes and life rafts from the side of the P&O ferry the Spirit of Britain at Port of Dover in Kent after the ferry giant handed 800 seafarers immediate severance notices last week and services remain suspended. Picture date: Monday March 21, 2022.
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Drills are carried out using safety chutes and life rafts from the side of the Spirit of Britain last month

The sackings scandal has proved to be a thorn in the side of the government, which has pushed for action against the company.

Yet it needs the P&O fleet back in service to curb the queues at Dover.

The Department for Transport’s plans to prevent a repeat of the saga – which include giving port authorities the power to prevent vessels sailing if owners flout minimum wage rules – have also met opposition.

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