Suspension of P&O Ferries could lead to some food shortages and price hikes, shippers warn

Irish hauliers have warned that the continued suspension of P&O Ferries services could result in empty supermarket shelves and food price hikes in some major retail chains.

Ransport boss Eugene Drennan said he was “very concerned” that the lack of vessels between the UK and Ireland could result in shortages of some food products on shelves if the disruption lasts for more than a week.

The P&O vessels carry 15 per cent of UK freight and a third of all freight in and out of France.

The Liverpool-Dublin and Cairnryan-Larne routes are used to transport freight from the UK to Ireland.

Irish supermarkets rely on the Irish Sea Route to import large volumes of fresh and non-perishable goods on a daily basis.

It could mean fresh food shortages in UK supermarkets like Tesco and M&S, with foods like salads and fruit from Spain and cheese, wine and croissants from France all being hit.

Hauliers warned it could also push up food prices for squeezed consumers who are already feeling the effects of inflation, as truck drivers are forced to travel longer distances and spend more on fuel.

P&O Ferries sparked widespread anger when on Thursday it suddenly fired 800 crew members over Zoom with immediate effect – to replace them with cheaper, possibly foreign labour. The ferry company said it made the decision to immediately lay off employees amid €119 million in losses.

P&O said yesterday it could not offer services from Liverpool to Dublin, Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam and Cairnryan to Larne “for the next few days”.

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, which represents major food retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, said yesterday the sector was able to weather a short-term disruption to the Larne to Cairnryan route but would be affected if the cancellation were extended.

Mr Drennan, President of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said Irish Independent it would “cause a little bit of disruption these days. But if it lasts longer than a week, it will be very worrying.”

He added: “It is mainly the UK shops here and the UK food products arriving here that would be affected.

“There are of course ethical concerns about P&O Ferries employees – but we have to strike a balance on this.

“Besides disruptions, I fear there could be a further increase in price as this will reduce driving hours, not to mention the distances that need to be traveled on the road.”

Mr Drennan said the Liverpool-Dublin route is a “large supply chain” for supermarkets. “And there are a number of British shops in Ireland, as well as Irish shops with British products.

“Ireland needs every supply route as we have had a rerouting of boats and a reconfiguration of what is coming to Ireland due to Brexit.

“We had good capacity. If it lasts longer than a week, yes, it will be very worrying.”

Aidan Flynn, chief executive of the Freight Transport Association of Ireland, said: “This is a crucial supply chain linking Ireland and the UK. It is vital.

“We don’t know if P&O Ferries will continue the services in the same way as before or if it will be a different approach.”

Mr Flynn said hauliers were now seeking “solidarity” from other ferry companies to “bridge the gap”.

The Department for Transport said it had “received confirmation from P&O that services will continue on the Dublin-Liverpool route with additional services due to resume on the route in the coming days”. However, no further details were given as to the date when services would resume. Suspension of P&O Ferries could lead to some food shortages and price hikes, shippers warn

Fry Electronics Team

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