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P&O ferry adrift off coast of Northern Ireland due to ‘mechanical issue’ days after restarting services

The i 26/04/2022 Nick Duffy

Lifeboats were scrambled on Tuesday to aid a P&O ferry in trouble off the coast of Larne in Northern Ireland, just days after the embattled company relaunched services after replacing its seafarers with agency staff.

The European Causeway, which can carry up to 410 passengers and 375 cars, set off from Cairnryan in Scotland at noon on Tuesday, and was due to reach Larne harbour, north of Belfast, at 2pm.

But marine tracking data at 3.30pm showed the vessel still adrift in the Irish sea, with RNLI lifeboats alongside it. The vessel was marked “Not Under Command”, indicating that it had been rendered inoperable.

Tweets from passengers onboard indicated that the vessel appeared to have lost all power.

Hours after the incident began, the vessel was shown entering the port.

P&O Ferries, which sacked hundreds of staff last month to replace them with lower-paid agency workers, said that a “mechanical issue” was to blame for the incident.

The company, owned by Emirati maritime firm DP World, said in a tweet: “Due to a mechanical issue with the Causeway in the Irish Sea, tugs from Larne and Belfast were deployed to guide it back to port. Once the ship is back in Port a full inspection will take place.”

It later said: “The Causeway is now continuing to the Port under its own propulsion, with local tugs on standby. There are no reported injuries aboard and all relevant authorities have been informed. Full and independent inspections will follow.”

Mick Lynch of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union said: “The reports of the European Causeway drifting in the water off Larne having lost all power are deeply concerning, not least for the agency crew and passengers onboard.”

He claimed: “Since our members were viciously sacked on 17 March, this vessel has been detained by the MCA for failing a raft of safety checks.

“The list of offences is now as long as your arm and the Government has to step in and protect ferry safety and jobs.

“P&O and their paymasters in Dubai are no longer capable of running a safe service and should be stripped of the licence to operate their ships.”

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