Union calls for government to strip P&O of its licence after ferry breaks down at sea

The ferry will remain in port until it's declared fit to sail again, reports Business Editor Joel Hills

This was a blackout at sea, such things incredibly rare. Ferries are designed not to breakdown.

P&O Ferries’ ship, the European Causeway, has four main engines, two generators and at least one backup generators.

All of them appear to have suddenly failed, in calm weather, leaving the ship drifting in the Irish Sea.

The ferry is able to carry 400 passengers, P&O hasn’t said how many were on board.

This is an awkward moment for P&O because when it decided to fire almost 800 crew in March and replace them with cheaper agency staff, the unions warned the company it was increasing the risk of accidents.

We don’t yet know what caused the ship to lose power.

P&O says the ferry experienced a “temporary mechanical issue”.

In statement the company said: “There are no reported injuries onboard and all the relevant authorities have been informed. Once in dock a full independent investigation will be undertaken.”

You may recall that this ship, European Causeway, was detained by the regulator, the Maritime Coastguard Agency, on March 26 after it failed a safety inspection.

Some 22 deficiencies were identified during the inspection. Including: “Failures on crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crews training.”

The MCA also noted that the ship’s “propulsion and auxiliary machinery” was “not properly maintained”.

The ship was later declared fit to sail on April 8 but tonight the MCA has confirmed that the European Causeway will have to pass another Port State Inspection before it sails again.

The RMT union says it believes human error is to blame.

Mike Lynch, general secretary, said the incident was “deeply concerning, not least for the agency crew and passengers onboard”.

He said that P&O is “no longer capable of running a safe service” and called for ministers to strip P&O of its licence to operate.