Concerns over Easter holiday travel plans as Dover sailings are suspended until Good Friday

Some cross-channel travel plans over the Easter weekend could be in jeopardy as P&O Ferries sailings between Dover and Calais remain suspended until at least Good Friday.

Services on the route were suspended until April 15, the company said, but the ferries must also pass inspections by the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) before they can resume.

So far only one – the Spirit of Britain – has been inspected out of five P&O Ferries vessels operating on the route.

It is understood that such inspections normally take about two days.

This means customers with tickets for the service later this week still don’t know if they need to make rebookings.

The Pride of Kent, which also operates the Dover-Calais route, was one of two company boats arrested after failing inspections.

Safety concerns ensued following P&O Ferries’ mass layoff of nearly 800 seafarers to replace them with cheaper agency workers.

The MCA confirmed on Monday that the Pride of Kent remains in custody.

A DFDS passenger ferry (R) bound for France passes P&O’s ‘Pride of Kent’ (foreground), ‘Spirit of Britain’ (L) and ‘Pride of Canterbury’ (C) ferries as they depart from the port of France to France departs Dover on Monday (Picture: Ben Stansall/Getty)

P&O Ferries has accused the agency of conducting inspections with “an unprecedented level of rigour”, but the MCA dismissed the claim, saying it works “in exactly the same robust way” for each ship.

The reduction in crossings across the English Channel caused by the closures had caused traffic congestion on the main roads approaching the Port of Dover in recent days.

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal, said the chaos on the streets of Dover and Kent was expected to continue “until this Easter week”.

“It is important that Dover is kept clear amid the ongoing road congestion,” she said. “P&O and DP World should be held accountable for this disruption that they have unnecessarily and wrongly caused.”

It comes as P&O passenger travel between Scotland and Northern Ireland resumed on Monday, despite the operator telling passengers “tourist travel” would not resume until Thursday.

More on this P&O ferries

The European Causeway vessel it uses on the route between Cairnryan and Larne was detained by maritime officials last month, but the MCA said on Friday it had been released after a re-inspection.

P&O Ferries tells I It would not comment on whether all or part of the Dover-Calais service will resume by Friday.

A spokesman for the MCA said: “At the request of P&O Ferries, an inspection of the Spirit of Britain is taking place. All inspections must satisfy the Sea and Coast Guard that the ferries meet the requirements of the port state control regime and are safe to sail.

“At the moment there are no further inspections by P&O Ferries, but we will conduct another inspection in due course.”

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