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P&O owners say government 'slow' to respond to plea for financial help to save worker's jobs

The owner of P&O Ferries has said the government has been "slow" to react to its plea for financial help.

The cross Channel operator which transports 15% of all goods in and out of the UK - including food and medical supplies - needs £257 million to avoid collapse as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

P&O Ferries needs £257 million to avoid collapse
P&O Ferries needs £257 million to avoid collapse

It has applied to the UK government for a £150 million bail out, while also seeking help from its parent company DP World, the trade unions and via a restructure of the business.

But the head of Dubai-based DP World Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem revealed today he has yet to get a response from the UK.

In an interview with BBC he said: "P&O plays a vital role in the UK and thousands of jobs depend on this company.

"We have to be sure that when this is over we can bounce back and save these jobs.

"We have applied to the UK government to support the company to save the jobs of these people. The government has been slow.

P&O Ferries is only operating two ships on its Dover to Calais routes
P&O Ferries is only operating two ships on its Dover to Calais routes

"We need to safeguard these jobs - a lot of people's lives depends on this company."

P&O has taken seven of its ships out of service - four of which operate on the Dover to Calais route.

This is a direct effect of the international travel ban, leaving Dover's largest vessels - the Spirit of France and the Spirit of Britain - to maintain its freight sailings to and from the port.

The company has also furloughed 1,400 workers, which will see the UK government paying 80% of their wages.

As well as P&O, DP World owns the ports of Southampton and the London Gateway, and last year made profits of more than £1billion.

'We need to safeguard these jobs - a lot of people's lives depends on this company'

Mr bin Sulayem defended P&O's plea for financial assistance, saying: "DP World owns many businesses around the world. You cannot just take money out of them to put into a company in another place - it doesn't make sense."

Speaking last week, Janette Bell, chief executive officer of P&O Ferries, said: “Given the current crisis, we are having to make some tough decisions to keep the business strong.

“In March, we suspended our passenger business and furloughed 1,100 employees, to focus on maintaining the flow of freight to and from Britain.

“Like other operators, we have been waiting for the UK government’s advice on what support they can give the industry, as well as what conditions they might want to apply on things like routes and supply lines.

“However, we’ve had nothing so far and we can’t wait, as the pressure on the business continues, so we have to act."

The Department for Transport said that £31m in subsidies have already been announced for critical ferry delivery routes, some of which were operated by P&O.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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