UK Ministers open criminal investigation into P&O Ferries

Following the dismissal of 800 seafarers two weeks ago, a criminal investigation was opened against P&O Ferries.

According to the Insolvency Service, it had “initiated formal civil and criminal investigations” into the activities of the ferry operator and its directors.

Officials addressed a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng (the Business Secretary) confirming that they had done a thorough review of the events surrounding the sacking.

Before making more than 100 employees redundant, UK companies must notify the government. It is a crime to fail to notify the government before making more than 100 workers redundant.

Ministers claimed that P&O didn’t “appear to comply” with these laws.

P&O claimed that it had notified Whitehall officials one day prior to the redundancies. It was not required to notify flagged countries. P&O “reflagged” its vessels to Cyprus in 2019 and the Bahamas in 2019.

Seven of P&O’s eight ferries are moored in ports during the criminal investigation, while the Maritime & Coastguard Agency conducts safety inspections. After failing agency tests, two P&O vessels – Pride of Kent and European Causeway were taken into custody.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, has pledged to make minimum wageand all other operators pay the minimum wage of £9.50-an-hour in British waterways.

However, Mr Shapps acknowledged that he would need to have the support of EU countries in order to push through the changes as new legislation is being debated and put into place.

On Wednesday, he was confronted by port operators over his plans to refuse vessels with staff who are not paid the UK minimum wage.

Richard Ballantyne of the British Ports Association said that Mr Shapps’s proposals were “unworkable”.

The Insolvency Service spokesperson stated that the investigation is ongoing and no additional information or comment can be made

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