A FERRY company has announced plans to furlough 600 employees and make 150 staff members redundant.

Stena Line, a ferry line which operates from Harwich International Port to the Hook of Holland, announced the cuts across the UK and Republic of Ireland today.

It said this urgent measure was an unavoidable response due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic which has had a hugely damaging effect on travel and transport across Europe.

Since the crisis emerged Stena Line has experienced a large decline in travel bookings and freight volumes - with passenger figures not set to increase until well into next year.

Ian Hampton, director of Stena Line, said: “The Covis-19 crisis has meant that Stena Line is experiencing a significant decline in passenger and freight volumes across all its 20 European routes.

"We are having to make some very difficult decisions, that we hoped we would never have to make.”

The announcement of furlough and redundancies relates to both UK and Ireland shored-based and sea-based employees, including those working on vessels on the Irish Sea and North Sea.

Several ferries have also been taken out of service.

Mr Hampton added: “In order to secure the continuity of our freight operations, we have no choice but to reduce our costs.

"We are committed to keep vital supply lines open for UK and Ireland.

"Regrettably we must furlough employees on temporary paid leave and make redundancies, as we adjust to this new reality.

"We will do everything in our means to ensure essential supply lines stay operational during what is a very difficult time for the company and the countries that we serve.”

Everyone on furlough will receive 80 per cent of their salaries.

Where UK and Irish government schemes don’t cover the full amount, the remainder will be paid by the firm.

The company is evaluating its operations in all regions and does not rule out that there could be further furlough, redundancy or changes to its current sailing schedules or routes.