Axe to fall on port jobs

JOBS are set to be axed at Associated British Ports in Ipswich following the shock closure of the Ferryways roll-on roll-off freight service to Ostend in June.

JOBS are set to be axed at Associated British Ports in Ipswich following the shock closure of the Ferryways roll-on roll-off freight service to Ostend in June.

The T & G section of Unite, which has been in talks with the local management at AB Ports on redundancies following the loss of the Ferryways business, last night said 44 job losses had been declared and was critical of the redundancy terms on offer.

AB Ports last night said it was unable to respond to Unite's comments, but said it was in consultation with the union.

“ABP is still actively involved in the formal consultation process with both staff and Unite concerning the regrettable redundancies in Ipswich, which are entirely the result of the recent collapse of the ferry operator, Ferryways NV,” ABP said.

“On this basis, we are obviously unable to comment on the contents of the recent Unite press release.”

In a statement, the union said it had tried to reduce the job losses by suggesting a reduced use of agency labour and contract labour.

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Port of Ipswich owner ABP confirmed back in June that the jobs of some port workers were at risk following the collapse of the Ferryways service.

The shock closure of the freight route came within days of Ferryways being acquired by a new owner, Cobelfret, which like Ferryways is based in Belgium.

A total of 21 Ferryways staff have already been made redundant following the appointment of administrators at the Ferryways UK operation.

Following the collapse of the freight service to Ostend, ABP launched discussions in June which it was thought could lead to some of its own staff involved in handling the three-sailings a day service being made redundant.

Ferryways, based in Ostend, operated routes to Tilbury on the River Thames and Immingham on the Humber. It was acquired earlier in June by port ferries and logistics operator Cobelfret. A Belgian court appointed administrators to investigate the finances of the main company Ferryways BV but the outcome of its inquiries would come too late to save many staff at its British subsidiary. Insolvency specialist David Merrygold from PKF accountants and business advisers were appointed as administrators of Ferryways UK Ltd.

In a statement back in June, ABP urged Ferryways and Cobelfret “to seek every means at their disposal to find a way through their apparent difficulties” and said it was continuing to make efforts of its own to identify replacement services.

“At this stage, however, in the absence of any such service into Ipswich, we have no alternative but to review, regretfully, our staff levels at the port to reflect the considerable loss of business,” it said at the time.

“We will enter into discussions with the staff involved once the position becomes clearer and we hope to limit the impact of these redundancies as much as possible.”

Last night, Union leaders said they were seeking an improving on the redundancy terms ABP was offering.

“Victor Brazkiewicz, T & G section of Unite regional industrial organiser, said: “Despite discussions with the local and head office management of Associated British Ports, the company has refused to improve the redundancy payments.

“We know some employees would be willing to leave voluntarily if better payments were on offer and a major port employer the size of ABP can well afford to make better payments.”

He said he still hoped the company would “soften the blow” and improve the redundancy payout.

Ferryways was formed in 2000 with the launch of its Ostend-Ipswich service representing the return of ro-ro trade to the Suffolk town after a break of around five years.

The company expanded rapidly to become the leading ferry operator in the Belgian market and one of the biggest operators at the Port of Ipswich. Daily sailings from Ostend to Ipswich had increased to three a day before the trouble with Cobrefret emerged.