A ship operated by P&O Ferries has been arrested in Larne for being ‘unfit to sail’.
The European Causeway ship was detained in the port of Northern Ireland over “failures in crew familiarization, ship documentation and crew training,” the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would not compromise the safety of P&O ships and insisted the company would not be able to expedite training for inexperienced individuals.
The company has laid off nearly 800 seafarers and plans to replace them with temporary workers with lower salaries.
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “We can confirm that the European Causeway has been detained at Larne.
“It was arrested due to failures in crew familiarization, ship documentation and crew training.
“The ship will remain in detention until all of these issues are resolved by P&O Ferries. Only then will it be checked.”
The MCA said there were no passengers or cargo on board the European Causeway ship when it was arrested.
Mr Shapps tweeted: “Following my instructions to inspect all P&O vessels before they are returned to service, @MCA_Media has arrested one vessel for being unfit to sail.
“I will not compromise the safety of these ships and P&O will not be able to push inexperienced crew through training.”
The detention of ships is based on concerns about their safety and to prevent them from putting to sea.
According to P&O Ferries’ website, the European Causeway began operating in 2000, replacing the Pride of Rathlin.
“Specifically designed for our Cairnryan to Larne route, it has never operated anywhere else and has only been taken out of service when in need of an overhaul,” the website reads.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed Mr Shapps’ call for Peter Hebblethwaite, the chief executive of P&O Ferries, to quit over the summary layoff of 800 workers.
In Larne, local Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Council William McCaughey said they would support the immediate reinstatement of staff.
“It’s ridiculous what P&O has done to the staff, we at Larne would be keen for the staff to be reinstated, that’s the least P&O could do,” he told the PA news agency.
Louise Haigh, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, also called for the reinstatement of the laid-off workers and the “expulsion” of Mr Hebblethwaite as director for his role in the crisis.
She tweeted: “The trained, experienced, loyal crew should be reinstated. And the chief executive should be barred as a director.
“P&O Ferries’ disgraceful misconduct has ruined livelihoods and harmed Britain’s major shipping routes.”
Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson welcomed the seizure of the ferry as a security measure.
“It’s not like a plane’s crew getting off one easyjet and boarding the next where the controls are exactly the same and everything is in the same place,” he told PA.
“No two ships are the same and you can’t just fly in a crew and expect them to be able to pilot a ship. Each check will be in a different location, but specifically all the health and safety drills that need to be gone through, from lifeboat stations to how each piece of equipment works.
“It seemed to me that it would be very difficult for the staff to assume this role in such a short time.
“I’m absolutely delighted that they[seized the ship]. This isn’t revenge on P&O, it’s also about passenger and crew safety.
“It was reckless for the company to think that not only could it act as it did in laying off employees, but that it appeared to have had no plan on how to go about doing this, and now it’s falling apart on them. “
Meanwhile, the RMT union said it welcomed the closure of the European Causeway and called on the government to seize “the entire fleet” of P&O vessels.
Secretary General Mick Lynch said: “The MCA’s seizure of the European Causeway tonight demonstrates the inability of gangster capitalist organization P&O to run a secure service in the wake of the workplace massacre.
“This mob should be shut down, their ships impounded and the fired crews reinstated to get these vital ferry routes safely back up and running.”
Protests against P&O’s actions are expected to take place in Liverpool, Hull and Dover on Saturday.
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