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UK rules out criminal action against DP World’s P&O Ferries

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P&O Ferries has a fleet of more than 20 ships

The UK has announced it will not pursue criminal action against P&O Ferries over mass redundancies announced earlier this year. 

The company, owned by Dubai-based DP World, whose ships sail across the English Channel, North Sea and Irish Sea, laid off nearly 800 workers in March and then went on to hire cheaper agency staff, sparking criticism from trade unions and politicians alike.

Britain said in June that it cancelled a contract with P&O Ferries “with immediate effect”.

But the government’s Insolvency Service has said following a “full and robust” criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the employees who were made redundant, it has concluded that it will not commence criminal proceedings.

The Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy asked the Insolvency Service to investigate whether any offences had been committed in relation to P&O Ferries’ dismissal of 786 employees.

The offence alleged was failure to notify in accordance with section 193 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 contrary to section 194(1) of that Act.

The Insolvency Service conducted a criminal investigation, which was reviewed by an independent senior prosecution lawyer in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, who concluded there was no realistic prospect of a conviction.

The civil investigation by the Insolvency Service is ongoing, it added.

P&O Ferries has a fleet of more than 20 ships and operates over 30,000 sailings a year.

The ruling comes as P&O Ferries owner DP World, one of the world’s biggest port operators, said it is planning to spend $1.4 billion on capital expenditure in 2022 as it reported a 51.8 percent rise in profit during the first half of the year.

The company reported profit of $721 million for the first six months of 2022, as revenue rose 60.4 percent year-on-year to $7.932 billion in the same period.

Capital expenditure for the full year is targeted at $1.4 billion, with investments in the UAE, Jeddah, London Gateway, Egypt, Senegal and Peru.

It has already invested $741 million in the first half of the year, up from $687 million in 2021.

Chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Ahmed said the company was facing a “more challenging macro and geopolitical environment” and the operator expected its growth rates to moderate in the second half of the year.

DP World in June announced a deal with Canada’s CDPQ to investment $5 billion the Dubai company’s flagship assets in the UAE, including Jebel Ali Port, the Jebel Ali Free Zone and the National Industries Park.