Freight News, Sea

Irish Sea ferry halted after Peel Ports cash demand – updated

[ April 17, 2020   //   ]

P&O Ferries says that one of its ro-pax vessels was prevented from sailing on 16 April after Peel Ports presented it with a demand for payment of almost £600,000.

P&O said it believed it owed much less than the amount demand and that it had been in discussions with the port authorities – until its key contact was furloughed and the port authority neglected to tell it. It says that the Liverpool port authorities then unnecessarily escalated matters without any reasonable warning or proper procedure.

A spokesman for P&O said: “We have been in open discussions since this crisis began with all of our ports and network to ensure that we can manage payments while everyone deals with this unprecedented situation. We had asked for flexibility in the time required to pay but the Liverpool port refused to respond, even though we were committing to full payment.

“Then we learned that our point of contact had been furloughed and they didn’t tell us.”

It described Peel Ports – owners of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company – as “irresponsible and unnecessary” at a time of national crisis.

P&O Ferries says that the Norbay was carrying food, medicine and other supplies between Liverpool and Dublin.

A Peel Ports spokesperson said there were some factual inaccuracies in the P&O Ferries statement adding: “The Port of Liverpool plays a vital role in many critical supply chains from all over the world, handling products needed in the medical & healthcare sector, food industry and energy generation.

“Customers who refuse to pay their bills put these other supply chains at risk. Any decision to detain a vessel is always taken as a last-resort and only when there is a significant debt to repay.”

The spokesperson added: “While we understand that we are in unprecedented times, the UK Government has announced multiple financial interventions that will support companies with short-term funding issues as a result of Covid-19. These should be used, as opposed to passing the cash-flow risk along the supply chain.

“Other ferry services from Liverpool to both Dublin and Belfast continue to operate, with multiple departures per day and spare capacity.”