P&O Ferries: Passengers 'in limbo' amid confusion over sailings – BBC


By Fiona Murray
BBC News NI

People hoping to travel on P&O Ferries' Larne-Cairnryan service this week have been expressing frustration at a lack of clarity over sailings.
The European Causeway was held in Larne by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency last month over safety concerns, after P&O sacked 800 of its workers.
On Sunday, P&O tweeted that it expected the route to resume later this week.
On Monday, it said the ship was running on a "full, normal schedule" – but few passengers were aboard.
A spokesperson said the vessel was "carrying both freight and tourists", but passengers have expressed confusion about the ferry schedule ahead of the Easter holiday.
'We only happened to find out by chance'
By Grainne Connolly at Larne Port
Normally a busy hub for travellers and freight goods, Larne Port was quiet on Monday afternoon.
A few lorries and trucks drove off the P&O ferry European Causeway which docked at 14:00 BST from Cairnryan, but there were no cars and only three foot passengers.
There was general confusion about which services were running. One passenger, who didn't want to be identified, said he wasn't sure if services were back to normal.
"We only happened to find out by chance because I knew I had to get home and looked it up on the website," he told BBC News NI.
"But even then half the ferries that would have run before didn't look to be running.
The man said disembarking the ferry was much quicker than usual due to the lack of passengers.
A harbour worker said only one foot passenger came off an earlier ferry from Cairnryan, which she said was largely carrying freight.
Louisa Newell was hoping to sail from Cairnryan to Larne last Thursday to visit her grandmother.
She has not been to Northern Ireland since August 2020.
She said she had not received any information from P&O so she sent the company a tweet.
"That's when we found out that our route had been cancelled," she said.
Louisa spoke to customer services on Monday morning and a refund is now being processed.
"We definitely won't book with them again," she added.
Scott Thomson, who lives in Scotland, is hoping to sail from Cairnryan early on Friday, but said he could not get clarification from P&O.
He will be travelling with his wife and two-year-old daughter to see his wife's parents in Dublin, for the first time since the Covid pandemic hit in 2020.
"Every day things keep changing, when they are going to be sailing," he told BBC News NI.
"We are supposed to be getting the ferry at eight o'clock ferry on Friday morning.
"We're travelling down on Thursday night and staying in a hotel but we are not guaranteed to be on that ferry. Everything is up in the air at the moment.
"We are literally in limbo. We have no idea if we are going to be sailing on time on Friday or not."
Scott said he phoned the company in March when the ship was detained, to inquire about his trip, but has had difficulty getting information since then.
"It's booked for an early sailing so that we can then drive to Dublin early enough in the day. I'm constantly in touch with them but I never get at straight-forward answer."
Saturday was the first time the European Causeway had been allowed to sail – albeit with a limited service – since it was detained in Larne a fortnight ago.
The company said full services would resume on Sunday but that morning P&O tweeted that the Larne-Cairnryan route was "cancelled until 12/04 for tourist travel but should resume on 13/04".
Andy McLarnen, from Newcastle Upon Tyne, said he had switched to another company because of the confusion.
He tweeted P&O: "Due to the amount of uncertainty I've booked Stena Line for the travel on the 13th and return on 19th will you be refunding me?"
The company told him to email customer services.
But on Monday P&O said customers could expect to wait about 28 days for a reply to emails.
It said it was "experiencing a higher amount of emails at present due to the high demand and it is currently taking around 28 working days to hear back".
On Monday, P&O said some Larne-Cairnryan services had resumed.
A spokesperson for the company said the European Causeway was now "operating on a full, normal schedule – carrying both freight and tourists".
The confusion over sailings comes amid warnings that members of the RMT union, and other trade unions, would blockade ports when the service resumes.
Regional organiser Gordon Martin told BBC News NI the union is planning blockades at ports including Larne and Cairnryan in protest at P&O ferries.
He said the union has a rough schedule drawn up for demonstrations but would be discussing the action with members.
The detention of the European Causeway came after the company sacked 800 workers across the UK without notice.
The company recruited new staff, but the MCA detained the European Causeway saying it was concerned about "failures on crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crew training".
If you plan to travel on P&O this week do you know when your ferry will sail? Tell us your story by emailing: haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.
Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways:
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