Dubai owner P&O loses crucial role in Brexit freeports initiative Business

The owner of P&O Ferries in Dubai is no longer involved in a key freeports project amid anger over the mass layoff of 800 seafarers last month.

DP World resigned from the Solent Freeport board last month and is no longer a consortium partner.

It comes after Natalie Bennett, a Green Party counterpart, asked the House of Lords whether there were plans to withdraw P&O contracts for freeports following a backlash against the ferry operator.

Ministers have previously warned that DP World’s role in the freeport scheme is under threat.

The Dubai-based company is a key part of the scheme, which aims to boost post-Brexit trade by creating low-tax zones in hubs across Britain.

The Solent Freeport, backed by Rishi Sunak last year, is expected to cost £2billion and create more than 25,000 jobs in the Southampton area.

The £4.5bn Thames Freeport, where DP World was also involved, is set to create more than 20,000 jobs.

Lord Greenhalgh, a leveling minister, said: ‘The government is continuing to work to understand whether DP World or P&O Ferrymasters are breaching any of the requirements imposed on them as investors in the Thames Freeport.

DP World was in line for £50million in taxpayer support as part of its commitment to the two projects.

Last week the company’s UK commercial director, Aart Hille Ris Lambers, resigned from the Solent Freeport board following local pressure.

Peter Hebblethwaite, the chief executive of P&O Ferries, admitted last month that the company broke the law with the mass layoffs, but said he would do it again if necessary.

The company claimed it needed to lay off staff to be financially viable as it was losing £100million a year. He said replacing staff with temps would halve his payroll.

The Insolvency Service opened a criminal investigation earlier this month.

DP World has been contacted for comment.

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This notice was published: 2022-04-07 20:17:45

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