The shock termination of a regular Liverpool to Dublin ferry has been described as "a huge blow" for the two cities.
P&O Ferries said the Liverpool-Dublin service will cease operating towards the end of 2023 as its berth at the Port of Liverpool will no longer be available to the company.
In a statement, the company announced: “Without agreement with the port owner to provide a berth in Liverpool, it is impossible for P&O Ferries to continue operating on this route. Extensive negotiations with the owner of our Liverpool site to extend our lease at the port or find an alternative site for our Liverpool-Dublin service to operate from have been unsuccessful.
“P&O Ferries is committed to serving our Irish Sea customers and has explored all options to continue sailing on this route. Unfortunately, despite utmost efforts by P&O Ferries to find a viable solution, no suitable alternative has been offered that would enable us to maintain the current service into 2024.”
A spokesman for Peel Ports, which oversees the port, confirmed that the P&O Ferries service would no longer be calling into Liverpool on expiration of their existing contract at the end of 2023. However, they declined to say why the contract had not been renewed.
Bobby Morton, national officer for Unite the union, said: “This is an important ferry service and its loss will be a huge blow to the people of Liverpool and Dublin.”
The union described the end of the service as "an historic loss" - adding: "Unite will now be ensuring that its 30 plus members who are employed at Liverpool docks, servicing the ferries, are fully compensated."
Sinn Féin's spokesman for Transport and Communications, Martin Kenny TD, said: “I am deeply concerned to hear that P&O Ferries are preparing to terminate their passenger and freight service between Dublin and Liverpool. This service has been running twice a day, seven days a week, and I understand may be ceased at the end of December.
“This is a hugely important service, and we need to see immediate action towards maintaining this route."
Calling on Ireland's Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, to "put put every effort into saving this service", he added: "Not only is this a valuable service, but the loss of the route could see around 60 employees out of their jobs. As an island nation, we cannot underestimate the importance of these passenger and freight ferry services."
East Hull MP Karl Turner said: "Disappointing but not entirely surprising that P&O Ferries Liverpool - Dublin route is to end. Seems the Tory Government have been asleep at the wheel again. They should have been helping to secure this route to help secure what’s left of our maritime industry.
"Sadly more maritime and port side jobs will be lost as a result. The port and ferry operators should have been challenged by Government to see what could have been done to secure jobs."