As P&O Ferries boss Peter Hebblethwaite was given “one last opportunity” by the government today (28 March) to do a U-turn on the sacking of 800 crew, P&O sailings from Dover to Calais remain severely curtailed.

There are no P&O ferries sailings from Dover to Calais until Thursday, with those between Larne in Northern Ireland and Cairnryan in Scotland still suspended. The Hull-Rotterdam service is also cancelled but Liverpool-Dublin sailings were going ahead today.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it was inspecting the operator's Pride of Kent ship at the port of Dover to ensure it is safe - with a full inspection required at a later date before it can resume passenger and cargo services.

Unions are meeting with DFDS and Stena Line and government officials today to discuss the crisis and consider alternative provision of services. Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "The campaign to get the workers back on the ships, operating these crucial ferry links safely, goes on and the company needs to face up to the hard facts and take responsibility for their grotesque actions."

A spokesman for the DfT said ministers were "working to understand how we can ensure the continuation of services in collaboration with other operators".

The ferry company continued to defend its decision today. A P&O spokesman said: “In making this hard choice we have guaranteed the future viability of P&O Ferries and secured Britain's trading capacity. We are committed to ensuring the continued and ongoing support for all those former and current employees affected."

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In an excoriating letter sent to P&O boss Peter Hebblethwaite by transport secretary Grant Shapps today, P&O was called upon to reverse its decision to sack its 800 workers.

The letter, which Shapps also published on Twitter, called on Hebblethwaite to take “one further opportunity to reverse this decision by immediately offering all 800 workers their jobs back on their previous terms.”

Shapps wrote that the decision to sack the workers had left both P&O and Hebblethwaite’s reputation “in tatters”.

He described Hebblethwaite’s performance last week in front of the Transport Select Committee, when he admitted breaking employment law, as “brazen” and showing “contempt” for the ferry line’s workers.

Shapps added that all contracts the company holds with the government are being reviewed and that he has also asked the Insolvency Service to“investigate P&Os actions, as well as revealing that the government is planning to bring in legislation “to ensure such outcomes are prevented by laws - which we will ensure that you cannot chose to simply ignore”.

He added: “I believe you will be left with little choice to reverse your decision in any case.”