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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Concerns over sheep exports as ferry company suspends services  

The NSA (National Sheep Association) has warned that P &O Ferries’ latest move could create “serious” disruption to the movement of sheep across the English Channel.

Yesterday (Thursday, March 17th, 2022), the ferry operator confirmed that it is:

  • Cancelling its services for the coming days;
  • Making 800 of its staff redundant with immediate effect.
P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries plays a “critical” role in keeping trade flowing, supply chains moving, and connecting people across the North and Irish seas and the English Channel.

The firm confirmed that it has made a £100m loss year on year, which its parent, DP World, has covered.

A company spokesperson said that this is “not viable”, and its survival depends on making “swift and significant changes now”.

“Without these changes, there is no future for P&O Ferries. These circumstances have resulted in a very difficult but necessary decision, which we took after seriously considering all the available options.”

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“As part of the process we are starting today, we are providing 800 seafarers with immediate severance notices. We will be compensating them for this lack of advance notice with enhanced compensation packages.”

“In making this tough decision, we are securing the future viability of our business, which employs an additional 2,200 people and supports billions in trade in and out of the UK.”

“And we are ensuring that we can continue serving our customers in a way that they have demanded from us for many years,” the spokesperson concluded.

Sheep exports 

According to the NSA, the company is the biggest shipper of breeding sheep.

It fears this could delay any solutions to the absence of any live breeding animal trade across the English Channel.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker commented:

“NSA recognises that P&O supports many industries, and the public too. However, for a long time, the company has been the mainstay of shipping live breeding sheep between Britain and Europe, and between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

“Brexit brought new controls for moving live animals into Europe. The fact there is no Border Control Post (BCP) with live animal facilities on the other side of the channel means British breeders have not been able to sustain what was a long-standing and important trade for valuable UK livestock genetics.”

“Negotiations are ongoing about establishing such a facility, but this news from P&O is likely to create further uncertainty and delays.”

Stocker said Northern Ireland protocols have allowed the continued movement of animals between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, he said they have imposed “serious” extra controls, resulting in many sheep farmers in Northern Ireland feeling “cast adrift”.

“It is not clear from the P&O statement what might happen immediately. However, this disruption will do nothing to allow farmers in Northern Ireland to integrate with the wider UK industry.”

The association hopes the power that be can find a solution to:

  • Prevent any immediate or short-term disruption;
  • Provide confidence for plans for a live animal BCP to progress in time for this year’s breeding sales this summer.
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