No-deal Brexit ferry firm owns no ships and has by no means run Channel service | Politics

One of many firms contracted by the federal government to constitution ferries within the occasion of a no-deal Brexit doesn’t personal any ships, has not beforehand operated a ferry service and isn’t planning to take action till near the UK’s scheduled departure date from the European Union, it has emerged.

Considerations have been raised about Seaborne Freight, which was awarded a £13.8m contract to function freight ferries from Ramsgate to the Belgian port of Ostend if the UK leaves the EU and not using a deal, after a councillor for the Kent city queried whether or not it could be attainable to arrange the brand new service by the scheduled Brexit date.

The contract is certainly one of three agreements value a complete of £107.7m signed by the federal government and not using a tendering course of to assist ease “extreme congestion” at Dover by securing further lorry capability.

Seaborne hopes to function freight ferries from Ramsgate from late March, starting with two ships and rising to 4 by the top of the summer time.

However Paul Messenger, a Conservative county councillor for Ramsgate, questioned whether or not the federal government had carried out enough checks on the agency, telling the BBC: “It has no ships and no buying and selling historical past so how can due diligence be carried out?

“Why select an organization that by no means moved a single truck of their whole historical past and provides them £14m? I don’t perceive the logic of that.”

Seaborne was established two years in the past and has been in negotiations about working freight ferries between Ramsgate and Ostend, however no companies are at present working. Slender berths within the port imply there are few appropriate business vessels out there.

In an announcement, the corporate mentioned it had been working since 2017 on plans to reintroduce ferry sailings from Ramsgate from early 2019.

The enterprise has been “financed by the shareholders” throughout a growth section involving “finding appropriate vessels, making preparations with the ports of Ostend and Ramsgate, constructing the infrastructure – akin to bunkering – in addition to crewing the ferries as soon as they begin working”.

It added: “It was meant to begin the service in mid-February however this has now been delayed till late March for operational causes.

“This coincides with the Division for Transport’s Freight Capability Buy Settlement with Seaborne which is a part of their preparations to extend ferry capability within the unlikely occasion of a no-deal Brexit.”

Ramsgate has not had a cross-Channel service since 2013, when operators TransEuropa collapsed.

The French operator Brittany Ferries and the Danish firm DFDS had been additionally awarded authorities contracts to ease stress on Dover within the occasion of no deal, permitting virtually 4,000 extra lorries every week to return and go.

A Division for Transport spokesman added: “This contract was awarded within the full data that Seaborne Freight is a brand new transport supplier, and that the additional capability and vessels could be offered as a part of its first companies. As with all contracts, we rigorously vetted the corporate’s business, technical and monetary place intimately earlier than making the award.”

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