Maritime union RMT has written to the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) after it was reported that a lifeboat had fallen off the new P&O Ferries’ ropax ‘P&O Pioneer’.
Accidents involving lifeboats are one of the most common causes of injuries and fatalities amongst seafarers in the shipping industry, the RMT said.
All the seafarers working on P&O Ferries’ vessels are low paid agency crew, predominantly recruited overseas by Maltese crewing agent IFM, the union claimed.
IFM was set up to supply agency labour to P&O Ferries before the dismissal of nearly 800 directly employed UK ratings and officers in March, 2022.
Despite the UK Government’s protestations, an Indian AB on the ‘Pride of Canterbury’ is contracted by IFM to work 17 weeks straight, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for a basic hourly rate of £3.94, the union claimed.
‘P&O Pioneer’ is due for delivery on the Dover/Calais route to replace the ‘Pride of Canterbury’ and this crewing model will be used on the new ropax.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch said that this sort of corner cutting on basic maritime safety was typical of P&O Ferries.
“Nothing could demonstrate P&O Ferries’ contempt for maritime safety standards more spectacularly, especially when you take into account the knackering 17 week contracts low paid agency crew are working on P&O’s fleet, including those registered under the Cypriot flag of convenience.
“The irony is that this (UK) Government signed an agreement with the Cypriot register in February, with the specific aim of enhancing maritime safety.
“We are in contact with the MCA and our comrades in the French trade unions to ensure that P&O Ferries cannot sail their new ship without a functional set of life saving appliances on board,” he stressed.
In a later post, RMT responded to the prospect of another 60 workers at P&O Ferries losing their jobs.
Lynch said: “This is another shameful chapter in the history of P&O Ferries where yet again they show scant regard for the livelihoods of their workforce.
“Another 60 job losses comes on the back of introducing new vessels to its fleet at a cost of over £200 mill.
“Over the past 12 months this company has demonstrated no loyalty or commitment to its workforce or local economies in the ports in which they operate whilst jeopardising the safety of travelling passengers.
“The Government should immediately strip P&O ferries and their parent company of any right to operate from UK Ports.
“This government has failed to hold P&O Ferries to account and as such Peter Hebblethwaite and those at DP World continue to cause destruction in the UK maritime sector.
“RMT continues to campaign for fair pay agreements, an end to discrimination and real sanctions against P&O Ferries that will deliver the decent jobs and skills our maritime communities need,” he concluded.