The Government’s decision to cancel the controversial no-deal Brexit ferry contract to Seaborne Freight has come as no surprise to haulier groups.
The Road Haulage Association's Chief Executive Richard Burnett said: “When the contract was announced we said that three months to source the vessels, and recruit and train staff was tall order so this comes as no great surprise to us.”
The contract, worth £13.8m, has attracted widespread criticism because the firm had no ferries and no experience of running ferry operations.
An Irish shipping firm, Arklow Shipping, pulled its financial backing for Seaborne and the Department for Transport (DfT) then cancelled the deal.
Last week Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had asked Thanet Council to postpone a key vote which could have shut down parts of the port of Ramsgate for use by freight shipping.
"The Government’s no-deal contingency planning is too little, too late and won’t instil much confidence in businesses trying to plan for a post-Brexit future," added Burnett
Meanwhile, Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel is to sue the Government for its decision to charter firms to run extra ferries, including Seaborne Freight, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Apart from the cancelled Seaborne contract, Grayling’s department has agreed two contracts with established operators Brittany Ferries (£46.6 million) and DFDS (£42.6 million).
Eurotunnel said the contracts were decided in a "secretive and flawed procurement process”, but the government insists it has acted transparently and competitively throughout the process of securing extra freight.
"This was done by approaching ferry operators and encouraging bids that could be fairly assessed against each other," a DfT spokeswoman told the BBC.
Grayling has 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”.
Posted on: February 12th 2019