The government has said it will help P&O workers facing redundancy after the company said 1,200 jobs would be cut.
Two P&O ferries in Dover are due to be taken out of service
In Dover, 798 seafaring staff and 41 shore-based workers will be axed.
Patricia Hewitt MP, trade and industry secretary, said the government would help the workers find new jobs and, if necessary, new skills.
After the cuts were announced, Dover MP Gwyn Prosser said he wanted Dover to be set up as a special category to support people facing redundancy.
'A real blow'
Speaking to BBC South East Today from the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Wednesday, Ms Hewitt said: "It is real blow.
"If it is not possible for them to keep those jobs, what we will do is make sure that we are in there to help them to get new jobs and, if necessary, new skills as quickly as possible."
The job losses announced on Tuesday are part of a shake-up to revive the firm's faltering ferry business - P&O is also withdrawing two ferry services.
Two passenger ferries, the Pride of Provence and the Pride of Acquitaine, are also being taken out of service in Dover.
The ferry operator has said the company was forced into making cuts because of increased competition from budget airlines and the Channel Tunnel.