P&O ferries plunged into a new crisis last night when its ship Pride of Kent failed a second safety inspection.
The latest blow means the operator will be unable to resume services between Dover and Calais before Easter, as expected.
Another of its ships, the Spirit of Britain, was detained on Tuesday after inspectors found serious deficiencies on board. Problems on both ships need to be fixed and further inspected before they depart.
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “Pride of Kent will be detained after a review of the ferry, which has found several additional deficiencies, including security measures and crew documentation.”
The company said the ferry company, which fired 800 workers last month without notice, had not ordered any more inspections this week. P&O ferries have replaced sacked British sailors with foreign crews, paying an average of £ 5.50 per hour.
Transport Secretary Grant Shaps has ordered that all P&O ships undergo a full port state control inspection before departure.
Shapps warned travelers this weekend that the transport network would be “extremely busy”, with delays on roads, ports and airports.
He told the BBC: “I think this weekend, of course, on our streets, possibly in our ports, of course, especially in Dover, where P&O abusively fired all its workers and then tried to sail what was not there. They tried to recruit quickly. “
A spokesman for P&O Ferry said: “We take the safety of our passengers and crew very seriously and look forward to welcoming all our ships as well as tourist passengers and cargo customers who have passed all the mandatory safety tests.”
There was also a delay for HGV using the Dover port yesterday, with rows returning to the M20, which is under the “Operation Brock” controlflow system. Motorways are closed to coastal non-freight vehicles, which must exit the motorway and use the A20 instead.