The Government has confirmed it has entered into three contracts with ferry operators to provide additional capacity and services into the UK as part of its no-deal Brexit contingency plans.
In a written statement to Parliament, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling acknowledged the scale of the potential disruption to the Dover Straits, if additional customs checks were introduced in Calais, Coquelles and Dunkirk, could be “very significant”.
Grayling’s department has agreed three contracts to provide additional capacity worth £103 million. Two contracts went to established operators Brittany Ferries (£46.6 million) and DFDS (£42.6 million). The routes agreed with Brittany and DFDS are away from the Dover Straits, and will run from the Ports of Immingham and Felixstowe (DFDS) and Poole, Plymouth and Portsmouth (Brittany) to destinations in Germany (Cuxhaven), the Netherlands (Vlaardingen) and France (Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, and Roscoff).
The third contract has been awarded to Seaborne Freight (£13.8 million), a new operator to provide a new service between Ramsgate and Ostend. The Seaborne contract is also subject to a range of key milestones including in relation to finalising funding and vessel chartering agreements.
Grayling said Seaborne Freight has been preparing for some time to operate services on this route and its management team has “extensive experience in the shipping and maritime sector, including the operation of ferry services on cross-channel routes, freight brokerage, port management and vessel chartering”.
He added: “As with many operators in the sector, it is not uncommon that they do not own their own vessels and will be chartering them through third parties. The department has reviewed their plans for sourcing vessels with the support of external advisers. A number of large institutional investors are backing this service and the government’s contract represents a small part of the overall investment required by Seaborne to open this route.
“These lenders undertake their own rigorous due diligence before making financial commitments, providing a further level of assurance to government.”
DfT and Seaborne are working with Thanet Council to ensure that Ramsgate Port is ready to take the new services. A programme of work to prepare the infrastructure is underway.
In total the additional freight capacity delivered by these three contracts will be equivalent to around 8% of normal flows across the Dover Straights.
“Whilst this will not be sufficient to mitigate the full level of disruption possible in a worst case scenario, it will enable the government to provide essential capacity for the highest priority goods including medical supplies,” Grayling added.
Posted on: January 7th 2019