Pride of Kent Detained

MS Pride of Kent entering Calais Harbour
MS Pride of Kent entering Calais Harbour; photo by Fabian318 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

P&O Ferry “Pride of Kent” Failed Safety Test

It is not surprising that the P&O Ferries’ ship, “Pride of Kent”, has failed the safety test that will allow her to leave the port of Dover. One of the points of failure, according to a report by Nautilus, the international union for sea-farers, is that the new crew were unfamiliar with procedures, including those for safety.   What did the managers expect when they brought on a new crew all at the same time?

Getting Ready for a New Opening

Anyone who has ever taken on a new job knows that the first few weeks are spent in learning from those already in the surrounding jobs. You have to learn how they do things around here, even if you are a somewhat contrarian or adventurous soul who wants to do things differently in future. 

I suppose there are new schools, hospitals and firms that sometimes have all new staff to start altogether on date zero. But even then mostly they get the managers and some essential staff in first to prepare the way for the larger intake. 

Large organisations, where stability and continuity are essential, may make their human resource plans for decades ahead, ensuring that there is both energetic new talent coming in and older management leaving in an even year-by-year stream.

Profit Before People

But P&O was evidently not looking for calm flows. Money was the bottom line. Someone did the sums and figured out it would be much cheaper to hire at £5.50 per hour, never mind whether or not they were up to the job.

The Harbour Board at Dover did the basic checks to see whether the ship could be allowed to leave the port, and not the more thorough safety check to see if the ship should be allowed to carry passengers or freight.  But the ferry failed that basic check. The Port Agency said, 

“The Pride of Kent has been detained due to failures on vessel documentation, crew familiarisation and training, and emergency equipment not functioning properly, indicating a failure of the implementation of a safety management system”

An Accident Waiting to Happen

This statement makes one wonder if the ship would have passed even with the old crew. It does not sound good that the emergency equipment was not functioning. Note: it was not that the new crew did not know how to use this equipment.  The actual equipment did not work. That is an accident waiting to happen. 

These cross-Channel ferries carry thousands of lorries per week, containing millions of pounds-worth of trade between UK and mainland Europe. Who would have paid insurance claims if the boat had hit disaster with all the heartache of possible loss of life?  That P&O accountant who calculated how to save money on labour was not factoring in the cost of negligence.

Two Down and Counting

So far two of the P&O ferries have failed port checks. More are to be tested during the next week or so. My guess is that a few more will also fail, as management complacency tends to spread from the top. They will all have to stay in port while more training is done. 

Whether or not P&O will re-hire some of the old crew is still undecided.  Management must now be totting up the cost of having the ships held expensively and unprofitably in the docks.

The best thing to have come out of all this is the prospect of stronger labour regulation to ensure that those working on ships from British shores are paid the living wage or more.