TransEuropa Ferries, the firm that runs the passenger and freight route between Ramsgate and Ostend, has gone into administration.
Around 25 staff work at the firm’s Ramsgate office and they were told last week to go home as administrators had been called into TransEuropa’s Ostend headquarters.
A long-serving company employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Many of us have been here a lot of years and we are all devastated. We are a close-knit team, not just colleagues.”
There are also fears TransEuropa staff will not be paid for the past month’s work.
The employee added: “We are due to be paid this week, but obviously it doesn’t look likely that will happen.”
Mark Seed, director of operations at Thanet District Council which owns the port, said the local authority hopes to re-establish the route across to Ostend, while Ramsgate MP Laura Sandys added it is important “to get a replacement as soon as possible.”
Problems with TransEuropa’s finances were first indicated last month when P&O repossessed its Pride Of Calais ferry from the company.
A P&O spokesman said: “TransEuropa arranged to take on one of our ships in December last year on a bareboat charter (free of crew), but it didn’t pay between January and March, so we repossessed it.”
The ship has been laid up in Tilbury, Essex, as its 45-strong crew - employed by TransEuropa through a Slovenian agency - are refusing to leave until they are paid their wages.
The P&O spokesman added: “A P&O captain is on board, and a representative of the International Transport Workers’ Federation has met with the crew and is negotiating with TransEuropa and the agency, and we are confident the matter will be resolved soon.”
All TransEuropa services have been suspended.
It it is believed those who booked crossings through agencies will be able to get refunds, but those who booked directly will have to contact TransEuropa for more information on whether refunds will be available.
No-one from the firm was available for comment and the company’s website is offline. Telephone the Ramsgate office on 01843 595522.