An increase in freight ferry services won’t resolve a no-deal Brexit border queue crisis, hauliers have warned.
The Road Haulage Association warning follows the decision by the Government to award a £13.8m contract to Seaborne Freight to operate a new Ramsgate to Ostend service as part of no-deal Brexit preparations. despite the company having no ships or experience running a ferry service.
The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has since defended the move, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s a new start-up business, Government is supporting new British business and there is nothing wrong with that.”
RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said he is worried that the company won’t have the time to get the service up and running for Brexit.
“Seaborne Freight has three months to source the vessels, recruit and train staff, and put all the infrastructure in place to launch the service before we leave the EU. It sounds like a very tall order.”
The Seaborne contract is one of three agreements worth a total of £107.7m signed by the Department for Transport to help ease congestion at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Danish firm DFDS has been awarded a contract worth £47.3m while the contract awarded to French operator Brittany Ferries is worth £46.6m.
Brittany Ferries said it will introduce a further 19 weekly return-sailings to three routes on the western channel from March 29: Roscoff to Plymouth, Cherbourg to Poole and Le Havre to Portsmouth, which represents a 50% increase in its freight capacity.
“Our priority is to prepare for a no-deal Brexit and to create additional capacity,” said Christophe Mathieu, CEO of Brittany Ferries.
“By increasing the number of rotations on routes like Le Havre – Portsmouth we will be able to meet the Department for Transport’s Brexit requirement. We will also work hard to minimise the impact on existing Brittany Ferries freight customers and passengers, although there may be some changes to some sailing times, for which we apologise in advance.”
Richard Burnett said while additional freight capacity and the relaunch of Ramsgate/Ostend is welcome, it should not be seen as a solution to no-deal chaos at ports.
Posted on: January 3rd 2019