”A new mindset”
In conversation with P & O Ferries CEO Peter Hebblethwaite. 2022 has brought a complete renewal for the long-established shipping line P & O Ferries. CEO Peter Hebblethwaite spoke to Christian Doepgen in London about its prospects – and looked back a little too.
Mr Hebblethwaite, what goals have you pursued in P & O Ferries since the beginning of 2022?
We’re looking at nothing less than the complete transformation of our old and proud brand. P&O Ferries, which frequently has crews from as many as seven nations on board one ship, is now in the process of renewing its more than 20-year-old business model, to become more competitive, sustainable and modern. We’re well on the way to our goal.
Does one of your routes nicely illustrate the changes?
We’ve improved our performance on our most famous route, Dover–Calais, through a space charter agreement with DFDS. We’ve doubled the number of departures and can offer a sailing every 35 minutes at peak times. Matching capacity to demand not only reduces prices, but also CO2 emissions. Our fleet now saves 85,000 t of carbon a year. Besides this vital route, other services too are more successful today than in the past.
Does freight also play a greater role?
Absolutely. Its importance has increased, even after the end of the Covid-19 lockdowns, when we were 100% reliant on freight, because tourists weren’t allowed to sail. Our service between Hull and Rotterdam, for example, is performing better than ever before, primarily because freight is doing very well.
Are you planning to deploy new ships that offer a better performance?
They’re set to be introduced soon. We will put the Pioneer into service in March 2023, and then the Liberté will subsequently follow later that year. A 40% increase in energy efficiency stands alongside 20–25% more freight capacity. Improved comfort will benefit the passengers and truck drivers on board alike.
The measures you implemented in March caused a stir...
The staff measures were tough, it’s true, but we only opted for them after we’d examined every other conceivable option to save the business and 2,200 jobs. There was a lot of inaccurate information in the media, however. Within two weeks, for example, 785 of the 786 employees we let go had signed up for our generous redundancy scheme. Our holding company DP World had absorbed the enormous deficits for a long time. Something had to be done to save the company that transports 17% of all the goods in the UK’s foreign trade.
What results can P & O Ferries report now?
This year we’ve attained 30% growth on the Hull–Rotterdam route, compared to 2018. We’re improving our coverage in the Irish and North Seas and intensifying our network.
What’s your vision for the future?
We want to create a new mindset and a completely new role for ferries. We have a golden opportunity to gain market shares from aviation and the railways, thanks also to improved services. In addition to ecological improvements we want to deliver a nine-figure profit for our parent corporation every year.