P&O Ferries a victim of misinformation, claims boss

Peter Hebblethwaite also told delegates at an industry conference that he hopes he can ‘survive’ as chief executive.

P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite
P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite

The boss of P&O Ferries has hit out at “misinformation” about the firm since it sacked nearly 800 seafarers.

Chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite also told delegates at an industry conference that he hopes he can “survive” in his role.

P&O Ferries was widely condemned after it sacked 786 crew members without notice and replaced them with cheaper agency workers on March 17.

Three P&O Ferries vessels
P&O Ferries suspended most of its sailings after the sackings (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Politicians and trade unions claimed the decision puts the safety of ships at risk.

Speaking at the Shippax conference, which took place earlier this week on a cruise ship crossing the Baltic Sea, Mr Hebblethwaite said: “There’s an awful lot of misinformation out there.

“We have not conducted ourselves on the day, or since, in anything like the way that has been suggested of me and us.”

He added that the future for the company is “very exciting” as he expressed hope he will “survive the next few months” as chief executive.

This comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps issued his latest plea last week for Mr Hebblethwaite to resign.

Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Cabinet minister told the Commons Transport Select Committee “he will have to go”, adding that it was “completely unsustainable” for Mr Hebblethwaite to keep his role.

Mr Hebblethwaite admitted to MPs in March that P&O Ferries broke the law by not consulting trade unions before sacking its workers.

The Insolvency Service is carrying out criminal and civil investigations.

Martyn Gray, executive officer at trade union Nautilus International, said: “Peter Hebblethwaite is responsible for the mass sacking of 786 loyal and dedicated seafarers without any notice or consultation.

“He confessed before a committee of Parliament to breaching UK employment law and brazenly admitted he would make the same decision again.

“Fifty days into a self-imposed crisis, Hebblethwaite and the P&O Ferries board, unlike their ships, are all at sea.

“The company has taken five times longer than originally quoted to resume operations and that remains only partial.

“P&O Ferries and Peter Hebblethwaite not only treated their crew with contempt but demonstrated disdain for the rule of law of this country.”

Last week P&O Ferries insisted it is “now a modern, dynamic, competitive and viable business”, and urged the Government to have a “constructive dialogue” about the future.

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