P&O's Hull-Zeebrugge route faces the axe in major blow to region

MPs, unions and business leaders have been reacting to 'incredibly worrying' news that P&O's Hull-Zeebrugge route is to be axed.
Seen from the bridge, the P&O North Sea Ferry 'Pride of York' leaves the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium for one of her nightly crossings to Hull. Picture: Terry CarrottSeen from the bridge, the P&O North Sea Ferry 'Pride of York' leaves the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium for one of her nightly crossings to Hull. Picture: Terry Carrott
Seen from the bridge, the P&O North Sea Ferry 'Pride of York' leaves the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium for one of her nightly crossings to Hull. Picture: Terry Carrott

The RMT union said a consultation had started over 81 redundancies among ratings and officers, including 16 ratings on the Pride of York in Hull and 37 in Dover.

The redundancies would be made between November 30 and March 31.

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Staff have been told Pride of York and Pride of Bruges will be taken out of service and sold. The two ships together normally operate the nightly 14-hour crossing with seven two-way journeys a week. Two other ships out of Dover - Pride of Burgundy and European Seaway - face the same fate.

The Pride of York moored at The King George Dock in Hull Picture: Mike CowlingThe Pride of York moored at The King George Dock in Hull Picture: Mike Cowling
The Pride of York moored at The King George Dock in Hull Picture: Mike Cowling

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said the company had received over £6.6m in taxpayer support during lockdown for the Hull to Zeebrugge and Hull to Rotterdam routes.

But P&O’s owners in Dubai had "pulled the plug on this vital route with no consultation, threatening jobs, passenger services and the recovery of Hull’s maritime economy.

“We have consistently warned the Government that they need to protect seafarer jobs on international ferry routes from further attacks but they have failed to take action."

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However East Hull MP Karl Turner said while "incredibly worrying if it's true" but added: "I am not convinced that this isn't a shot across the bows from P&O for more support - though they have had £6.6m, they may be after more money.

"They used Covid as a reason to sack British ratings and replace them with Filipinos on less than £3.50 an hour."

David Hooper, from Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is a massive loss. We feel it is vital that the Rotterdam route is retained because it keeps the gateway to Europe open from the Humber."

A P&O Ferries spokesperson said: “Due to the extended impact of Covid19, we are having to take further difficult action in which some jobs will be made redundant - but as a result thousands more jobs will be saved.

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"These necessary steps will ensure we are a slimmer and more agile business that is better able to give customers the service they want and the value they demand.”

Hull is the only ferry port between Newcastle and Harwich and the service last year carried 292,000 people to Zeebrugge. The two ferries are 33-years-old.

Adam Fowler, from Hull and Humber Environment Forum, said: "It is absolutely tragic news for Hull.

"Whilst some passengers may use the Rotterdam service there is still likely to be a significant loss in passengers either coming from Europe or others parts of the UK to Hull.

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"Second, it diminishes the status of Hull as a major European Ferry port and gateway to Europe. This was Hull's critical selling point that no other port on the East Coast could boast.

"If the freight service is not maintained it also means the loss of capacity through the port and of course loss of jobs both directly and indirectly."