Scandal-hit P&O Ferries said on Tuesday it planned to resume sailings between Dover and Calais this week, following a six-week hiatus prompted by its mass sacking of 800 seafarers.
The Dubai-owned firm, which normally sails multiple times daily between the southeast English port and northern France, will restart freight services first, a company source told AFP.
That could happen as soon as Wednesday, before passenger services are planned to return next week.
But only one ship will resume sailings, the source said, as three others are still detained by the British authorities over safety fears.
On the group’s other routes — notably between Hull in northeast England and the Dutch port Rotterdam, and between Liverpool and the Irish capital Dublin — services have returned to close to normal.
However, in an embarrassing development Tuesday, P&O’s “European Causeway” vessel suffered a “mechanical issue” while crossing the Irish Sea and was temporarily adrift.
Although power was restored and the ferry made its own way into Northern Ireland’s Larne port, three lifeboats and tug boats had to respond to the incident.
“Once in dock a full independent investigation will be undertaken,” the company said, adding no injuries were reported onboard and passengers and cargo would be discharged “as planned”.
The “European Causeway” only returned to service earlier this month after being detained by British authorities for several weeks over safety issues linked to large-scale job losses announced in mid-March.
P&O Ferries, owned by Dubai’s DP World, sparked outrage when it fired 800 seafarers without notice, immediately replacing them with foreign agency workers on less than the minimum wage.
The move has drawn a chorus of condemnation, including from trade unions and the government.
The firm is facing a criminal and civil probe after admitting it deliberately flouted its obligations to consult the unions on the job cuts.
Meanwhile, UK authorities detained several vessels in the aftermath of the move — on both the Irish Sea and busy Channel routes — citing health and safety compliance concerns.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) April 12 ban on the “Spirit of Britain” sailing contributed to travel chaos and lengthy delays at Dover over Easter.
Its detention was lifted on Friday.
In response to the crisis, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he wants to work with other European countries, including France, to introduce a minimum wage on international shipping in Europe. — Agence France-Presse