The UK Chamber of Shipping has warned that a huge fall in passenger numbers because of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that it was quickly becoming cheaper to It has called on the UK government to provide financial support quickly to keep services running.
The Department for Transport said only that it would continue to engage with the relevant companies.
The association said that if the ferry companies severely cut back services, then supplies of food, medical equipment and other imported goods would be put at risk.
P&O Ferries, which carries around 15% of the UK’s imported goods, including food and medicines, announced last week that it was suspending its passenger business, moving over solely to cargo. It is furloughing more than 1,000 staff. P&O Ferries said that it needed £257m to keep going, of which it was reported that some £150m would need to come from the government.
The ferry industry has said that, like the bus and train industries, it needs bespoke financial support to stay viable.
UK Chamber of Shipping CEP Bob Sanguinetti said that “we have a number of companies explaining how much money they’re losing. We are talking millions every day. What we’re asking for is not a wholesale bailout. It’s for the government to share and underwrite some of the risk and the costs to allow the ferry companies to continue providing that vital, lifeline service to the country.”