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Ship Horns Join Weekly Appreciation of Key Workers

Over 30 ships to sound their horns in appreciation of all key workers helping combat Covid-19

(Wednesday 9th April, 2020) Shipping industry bodies Discover Ferries, the British Ports Association (BPA) and the UK Chamber of Shipping, have coordinated efforts to show support for key workers as ships across the UK, Ireland and the British Isles sound their horns at 8pm on Thursday evening (tomorrow). The ships’ horns add to the growing audible recognition and appreciation of all essential workers, from NHS staff to emergency services, supermarket employees and seafarers, who are helping to keep the UK & British Isles safe as well as stocked with essential food and medical supplies.

“This is an extremely difficult time for everyone, with many passenger ferry services needing to reduce or even suspend their operations due to the current travel restrictions,” commented Emma Batchelor, director of UK industry body, Discover Ferries. “But it is incredibly humbling to witness the solidarity that our seafarer community shares with the rest of the British Isles as we all unite to keep lifeline services operating and ensure the flow of essential food and medical supplies to where they are needed.”

As with many frontline services, the ferry sector has been adapting its operations, working hard to protect lifeline services to island communities and essential freight routes in the face of hugely challenging conditions and a sharp reduction in the number of passengers able to travel.

Key changes include a temporary relaxation of competition rules on the Solent, enabling Hovertravel, Red Funnel and Wightlink to work together to maintain critical lifeline services to the island. The measures include the acceptance of tickets on each other’s services with no extra charge to ensure key workers are able to travel despite a reduction in overall services.

With the health and safety of crew and customers at the heart of all operations, cross Channel operators are prioritising freight, with many offering upgraded cabin facilities to commercial drivers, ensuring they have their own en-suite facilities. Other operators, such as Condor Ferries have changed some services to freight only operations, enabling them to not only safeguard freight capacity on those routes, but also to maintain a sterile environment for the transportation of medical equipment and other essential supplies.

In Scotland, Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) has started donating food from its now closed retail outlets to local foodbanks in areas such as Ardrossan, Greenock, Oban, Barra and Stornoway.

Earlier this week, the UK Chamber of Shipping called on the UK government to provide financial support to help keep ferry services operating amid huge financial losses.

UK Chamber Chief Executive Bob Sanguinetti said:

“We have already seen a number of ferry companies reduce their services and send a large number of their staff home.  Unless these companies get access to the government financial packages now, this is likely to be followed by further reduction of services, or indeed companies going out of business.  We are being told that it is fast becoming cheaper to lay ships up than to keep them running at a loss.  This will put at risk our vital supply and essential logistics lines – the life blood of this nation.”

As an island nation, the majority of the UK’s trade in goods is transported by sea, with up to 50% of our food imported from other countries. Portsmouth International Port, for example, has reported that over a thousand lorries a week are passing through Portsmouth, with around 80% of them loaded with food from continental Europe, including plenty of fresh food and vegetables.  

UK ports have, however, seen a fall in vessel calls across almost every sector but are working hard to keep freight moving and the country fed. The British Ports Association has called on Government to roll-out a massive expansion of testing and protective equipment to all key workers.

Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association said:

“Ports across the whole of the UK are critical to keeping the country supplied. As a sector we have been working hand in glove with Ministers and officials to ensure that goods keep moving as freely as possible through this crisis.” Discover Ferries members operate over 80 ferry routes across the UK, Ireland and British Isles. For further information on which ferry services are currently available go to https://www.discoverferries.com/news/ferry-services-update-during-covid-19-pandemic/

Photo Caption: Red Funnel crew applaud the NHS (Credit) Andis Zarins