A P&O ferry has been detained in Northern Ireland on safety grounds – just days after 800 workers were sacked without notice and replaced with cheaper workers.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the ship, The European Causeway, was held in Larne “due to failures on crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crew training”.
Its statement said: “The vessel will remain under detention until all these issues are resolved by P&O Ferries. Only then will it be reinspected.”
The MCA added: “Detention of ships is based on concerns over their safety and to prevent them going to sea.”
There were no passengers on board when the coastguard announced the move.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: “Following my instruction to inspect all P&O vessels prior to entering back into service, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has detained a ship for being unfit to sail.
“I will not compromise the safety of these vessels and P&O will not be able to rush inexperienced crew through training.”
When did the European Causeway enter service?
The European Causeway was built in 1999 and entered service in 2000, replacing the Pride of Rathlin, to transport passengers from Scotland to Northern Ireland.
It was specifically commissioned for the route from Cairnryan – a village in Dumfries and Galloway, around 81 miles southwest of Glasgow – to Larne.
The ship has not operated elsewhere and is only taken out of service when a refit is required.
She can carry more than 400 passengers, together with 53 crew members.
She has a gross tonnage (the total carrying capacity) of 20,800.
The European Causeway had a makeover in 2013 as part of a £20m investment in P&O Irish Sea ships.
Mr Shapps had previously called on P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite to quit over the mass sacking – a call echoed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Louis Haigh, responded to the detainment by calling for the hundreds of sacked workers to get their jobs back.
The RMT union demanded the government now “seize the entire fleet” of P&O ships.
General secretary Mick Lynch said: “The seizing of the European Causeway by the MCA tonight shows that the gangster capitalist outfit P&O are not fit and proper to run a safe service after the jobs massacre.
“This mob should be barred, their ships impounded and the sacked crews reinstated to get these crucial ferry routes back running safely.”
P&O’s boss has said the new crews are paid below UK minimum wage, apart from those on domestic routes.
He said hourly pay was between £5.15 and £6. The UK minimum wage for over-23s is £8.91 per hour.
Mr Hebblethwaite, in evidence to MPs on Thursday, admitted the company broke employment law by failing to consult unions and staff.
However, he denied breaking criminal law in an email to remaining staff on Friday, telling them they should not fear the same fate as their former colleagues.
Protests about the sackings are expected in Liverpool, Hull and Dover on Saturday.