Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots has met with representatives from Stena Line to hear how the company is responding to the suspension of P&O Ferries' sailings.

"I have met with representatives from Stena Line this morning to hear for myself how they are helping to ensure that food continues to come into Northern Ireland," Poots said.

Poots has expressed his concern over the impact of these changes to Northern Ireland trade. However, after his meeting with Stena Line's trade director of the Irish Sea, Paul Grant, the minister said that the company's intervention has prevented an industry crisis.

“Since the announcement by P&O, Stena Line has been very reactive to the situation, increasing their sailings from 12 to 18/day and drafted in an extra ship to help increase sailings and capacity," he said.

"This ensures that food, in particular fresh food, continues to make it onto our shelves in a timely fashion.

“I would like to extend my thanks to Stena Line for their help over the last week. There is no doubt that their intervention has prevented a total crisis on our supermarket shelves."

“With the introduction of the new ship, we should now have capacity to ensure that everyone who wants to travel and in particular to take goods back and forth, albeit with slight time delays," added Grant.

"But we are doing everything we can to help the market in this situation.”

P&O Ferries

Earlier this week P&O Ferries made "significant changes" to the way it operates, including lessening its amount of sailings. According to the ferry company these changes were necessary for its survival.

"Our business had been operating at significant loss and had become unsustainable," P&O Ferries said in a letter to UK Secretary of State, Kwasi Kwarteng MP and UK Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Paul Scully MP.