P&O Ferries chaos sparks backlog at ports: Fresh food set to go off before it reaches supermarkets

UK shoppers could see shortages of fresh food as a result of the P&O Ferries staff sackings, according to a business group. The shipping company suspended its services this week, affecting both travel and the supply chain.

The British Retail Consortium said that retailers are working to reduce the impact on the supply chain. Fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese and wine are no longer arriving due to the cancellations of the routes.

P&O has been criticised for sacking 800 employees without notice on Thursday. Staff were told via video message that it would be the final day of their employment.

Union-backed protests have been staged at ports including Dover, Liverpool and Hull while the UK government has questioned the legality of the mass-redundancy. P&O said the decision was taken "as a last resort".

Speaking to the MailOnline, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium Andrew Opie said businesses were doing all they can to reduce the risk of hindering the supply chain.

He said: "Retailers are working with other ferry companies to ensure disruption to P&O ferry services do not interfere with the movement of fresh food between GB, NI and EU.

"Nonetheless, a prolonged interruption to P&O services, who are an important part of UK supply chains, could eventually impact the flow of goods. We urge the ferry company and union to find a speedy resolution to the current issues."

P&O initially said that some services were being cancelled for “several days” but that then reportedly was extended to 10 days as it arranges for agency cover. The company, owned by Dubai-based DP World, usually transports 15 per cent of the UK's freight.

Maritime minister Robert Courts said: "Government modelling reportedly suggests that there is sufficient capacity to handle the temporary loss of the P&O ferries. However, considering the significant role the organization plays in freight shipping across the Channel, some supply chains will see disruption."

In a statement, P&O Ferries said: "We took this difficult decision as a last resort and only after full consideration of all other options but, ultimately, we concluded that the business wouldn't survive without fundamentally changed crewing arrangements, which in turn would inevitably result in redundancies."

Source: Manchester Evening News