P&O Ferries’ sudden decision to sack all staff has plunged a Scottish charity’s mercy dash to Ukraine into turmoil.
Huntly firefighter Mark Allan is helping to transport four badly-needed fire engines to the war-torn nation.
It comes at a time when Putin’s Russian troops have been targeting fire crews while they try to tackle the damage caused by relentless shelling.
The Scottish Emergency Rescue Association (Sera) convoy set off from Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon, with four appliances and a huge truck of PPE to help the cause.
The organisation had been planning to board the engines onto a P&O ferry at Hull, then sail to Rotterdam.
But when the huge firm made 800 workers redundant yesterday, and docked its fleet of vessels, the Sera volunteers feared they might have to turn back.
Fraught trip as P&O delays fire engine mission
The journey from Edinburgh was plagued with uncertainty.
As the team travelled south, frantic efforts were taking place in the background to ensure they could cross into mainland Europe.
With the Channel Tunnel ruled out, they began looking at other possible ports.
Back in Mark’s hometown, Huntly councillor Gwyneth Petrie appealed for Gordon MP Richard Thomson’s help in finding a solution.
Sera, meanwhile, posted on Facebook about its determination not to give up.
The message stated: “The challenge has been made that much harder.
“However we know our fire service friends in Ukraine desperately need these vehicles and equipment, therefore we will find a way.”
Relief as fire engines finally overcome P&O delay
After a hectic Friday, the SNP politician managed to secure them a spot on a ferry from Dover – bypassing snaking queues of others who had to suddenly rearrange bookings.
The volunteers are booked on a 9.30pm ferry.
But are now 24 hours late in their urgent mission, having hoped to arrive by Sunday night.
Sera stated this evening: “This new crossing will add many hours onto our route with an already delayed schedule.
“We will do our very best to get the vehicles and equipment as quickly and safely to our colleagues in Ukraine.”
Fire crews in Ukraine ‘literally dodging bullets’
Earlier this week, Sera’s Gary Bennett told the BBC about the horrific conditions Ukrainian teams are working under.
He said: “The operational folk are literally dodging bullets as they are driving along in their fire engine responding.”
Mark Allan is part of a team of 13 UK firefighters, taking it in shifts to drive the appliances to where they are needed most.
The PPE cargo includes 80 surplus flak jackets.
The volunteers will transfer the fire engines and equipment at the Poland-Ukraine border.
Equipment ‘vital’ for Ukrainian crews
A relieved Mrs Petrie is glad the plan is back on track.
She said: “It was so disappointing to hear that the Sera team had been delayed further due to the ferry issues, and that they were even considering turning back.
“I contacted Richard to find out there was any way he could assist.
“He and his team quickly got to work.
“I’m delighted to hear that the team now have a space on a ferry and are finally on their way to deliver these vital appliances and PPE.”
You can donate to Sera here.