A ship operated by P&O Ferries has been detained in Larne for being “unfit to sea”.
The European Causeway vessel has been held in Northern Ireland port due to “failures in crew familiarisation, vessel documentation and crew training”, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he will not compromise the safety of P&O ships and insisted the company will not be able to rush the training of inexperienced people.
The company has laid off nearly 800 seafarers and plans to replace them with lower-paid agency staff.
A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “We can confirm that the European Causeway has been stopped at Larne.
“He has been detained due to failures in crew familiarization, ship documentation and crew training.
“The ship will remain detained until P&O Ferries resolves all these issues. Only then will she be re-inspected.”
The MCA said there were no passengers or cargo on board the European Causeway vessel when it was detained.
Mr. Shapps tweeted: “Following my instructions to inspect all P&O vessels prior to re-entering service, @MCA_Media has detained a vessel for being unseaworthy.
“I will not compromise the safety of these vessels and P&O will not be able to rush inexperienced crew through training.”
The detention of ships is based on concerns about their safety and to prevent them from putting to sea.
The European Causeway entered service in 2000 replacing the Pride of Rathlin, according to the P&O Ferries website.
“Designed specifically for our Cairnryan to Larne route, it has not operated anywhere else and has only been taken out of service if it needs repair,” the website said.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed Shapps’ call for P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite to resign, over the sacking of 800 workers without notice.
In Larne, the local Mayor of the Mid and East Antrim Council, William McCaughey, said they would support reinstating staff immediately.
“It’s ridiculous what P&O has done to staff, we at Larne would be very keen to see staff reinstated, it’s the least P&O could do,” he told the PA news agency.
The Labor Party’s shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, also called for sacked workers to be reinstated and for Mr Hebblethwaite to be “banned” as director for his role in the crisis.
She wrote on Twitter: “The skilled, experienced and loyal crew must be reinstated. And the CEO should be excluded as a director.
“P&O Ferries’ shameful misconduct has ruined livelihoods and is hurting the UK’s main shipping lanes.”
Labor has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng asking whether the Government will seek the removal of Mr Hebblethwaite as a director under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.
In a letter, the party accused the government of “sitting on its hands” rather than taking action to hold P&O accountable, adding that the “toothless response risks greenlighting exploitation”.
Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson welcomed the seizure of the ferry as a security measure.
“It’s not like the crew of one plane gets off one Easyjet and gets on the next one where the controls are exactly the same and everything is in the same place,” he told PA.
“No two ships are the same, and you can’t just fly with a crew and hope they can sail a ship. Each control will be in a different place, but especially all those health and safety drills that must be carried out, from the lifeboat stations to the operation of each equipment.
“It seemed to me that it was going to be very difficult for the staff to be able to assume that role in such a short time.
“I am absolutely delighted that they have (seized the boat). This is not revenge against P&O, this is about the safety of the passengers and also the crew.
“It was reckless of the company to think that not only could they act the way they did about laying off people, but they don’t seem to have had a plan for how they were going to go about this and now it’s going down.” Apart from them”.
Meanwhile, the RMT union said it welcomed the stoppage of the European Causeway and demanded the government “seize the entire fleet” of P&O vessels.
General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “The MCA takeover of the European Causeway tonight shows that the P&O gangster capitalist outfit is not fit or suitable to operate a secure service after the massacre of jobs.
“This mob should be locked down, their boats seized and laid-off crews reinstated to get these crucial ferry routes back up and running safely.”
Protests over the P&O actions are expected in Liverpool, Hull and Dover on Saturday.