// P&O ferry suspensions could hamper fresh food movement across Great Britain and the EU
// Trade body The Cold Chain Federation said P&O made up a third of freight capacity between Dover and Calais and the disruption was already causing five-hour delays
The suspension of P&O ferries could hit the UK’s food supply chain and lead to product shortages on supermarket shelves, industry bosses have warned.
All ferry services were cancelled today after the ferry operator fired 800 employees that it planned to replace with cheaper agency staff.
Hundreds of protesters have taken to ports across the country and P&O has warned passengers that sailings would be suspended “for the next few days”.
Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, the trade body for temperature-controlled logistics, said P&O made up about a third of freight capacity between Dover and Calais and the disruption was already causing delays of up to five hours.
He added: “We’re OK for now but if this carries on, which it looks like it will, it could start to get problematic next week and the week after.”
A spokesperson for the Road Haulage Association said this was “another headache for our hard pressed haulage industry – and our members are alarmed at reports that it will take a week to ten days to get back to normal operations”.
“The situation at Dover and other ports is challenging enough with the new post-Brexit paperwork without the loss of several ferries to transport goods.
“We’re calling on the government to spell out a clear contingency plan to help the situation for crucial cross channel trade.”
BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said that retailers were working with other ferry companies to minimise the disruption to the movement of fresh food between Britain and the EU.
“Nonetheless, a prolonged interruption to P&O services, which are an important part of UK supply chains, could eventually impact the flow of goods. We urge the ferry company and union to find a speedy resolution to the current issues,” added Opie.