P&O Ferries risks being left red-faced after spending £230m on two new hybrid ships that cannot be plugged into the electricity grid in Dover or Calais.
Lauded by bosses at the controversial ferry operator as “the most sustainable ships ever to sail on the English Channel” P&O will run the battery-laden ships on diesel when they are delivered later this year.
P&O sparked controversy last year after standing by plans to take delivery of two state-of-the-art “superferries” despite its shock firing nearly 800 seafarers in an effort to cut costs.
Built by Guangzhou Shipyard in China, P&O claimed the ships would cut fuel use by 40pc “through a combination of fuel and battery propulsion” when announcing the order in 2020.
“The ship is designed with the capacity to be carbon neutral in the future on the twin assumptions that there are more electric shore charging stations in ports and batteries,” the company said at the time.
But the Telegraph has been told that P&O has not consulted with authorities in Dover or Calais over charging points, sparking confusion among senior port officials. Dover, for instance, does not currently have the network capacity to recharge the ferry batteries and meet its other electricity needs, they added.
One said: “You just don’t order ships without consulting with the port?”
Named Pioneer and Liberte, the two ships will replace P&O’s older fleet and are double-headed, saving time when loading and unloading by virtue of not having to turn around in port.
The prospect of more efficient sailings has led to industry speculation that P&O is preparing to announce a fresh wave of job cuts.
However, the company this weekend said it is “categorically false” to suggest that the new ships would lead to any redundancies.
P&O also insisted that towing on-board electric batteries across the English Channel would not result in a larger carbon footprint.
Despite earlier carbon neutral claims, a spokesman for P&O said “In light of current shore power capacity, our new hybrid ships were never designed to operate on a complete zero emission basis and be ‘charged up’ in-port.”