Despite the red tape and non-disclosure agreements, news of No-deal ferry contracts managed to slip out over the Christmas period, with eventual confirmation by the Government that contracts had been awarded to three companies whom it is hoped will begin tackling post-Brexit logistics.
Since then, it seems each day brings more detail to light, with stirring revelations about the contract’s lawfulness, the companies involved and how they were selected for the job.
Here’s our breakdown of the latest.
Who are the three operators selected by the government?
Brittany Ferries – French sea-freight company, and possibly one of the world’s best-known brands when it comes to both passenger and cargo freight.
DFDS – Danish owned international shipping and logistics company. It’s supposedly one of the busiest in Europe, with well over £1.5bn in annual turnover.
Seaborne Freight – Donned by some media as ‘the ferryless ferry company’, and that’s the more generous news about them. Seaborne Freight was established in 2017 by a group of industry professionals, including Glenn Roy Dudley and Jean-Michel Copyans, both of MyFerryLink.
What’s the plan?
The plan is to create additional ferry capacity in preparation for the potential of a no-deal Brexit. If there is no deal made upon exit from the EU, there would be a significant impact on the UK border, including to some of the core trade routes in the region. The Dover Straits in particular are expected to be inundated with vessels, and so the government and its advisories have been looking for alternative trade routes.
The routes which have been agreed include redirected vessels from the Ports of Immingham and Felixstowe, Poole, Plymouth and Portsmouth. It’s been deduced by the government and its informing bodies that the additional capacity could equate to 8% of today’s load which currently passes through the Dover straights.
What’s the controversy?
There’s been outcry about the freight companies chosen for the trial, with initial concerns raised over two of the three successful contract bidders being foreign-owned. However, this quickly diminished.
Investigations by a number of interested parties and members of the public have turned up some alarming details about Seaborne Freight. The management team behind the company do have significant experience within the shipping and maritime sector, however , such as the website’s admin details being publicly listed on the website, the Ts&Cs being copied from a fast-food delivery site, blank timetables, and yet more copied text from a boutique jewellery store. At the time of writing, the website’s Terms and Conditions page has been updated to redact any of the aforementioned blips, but some details around the company remain worrying to some – such as the company’s registered assets totalling £66. And one of the directors owing HMRC £580,000 after the liquidation of his previous company.
Labour Shadow Secretary, Andy McDonald, has described the contract between the government and Seaborne as ‘very likely unlawful’.
This is currently an evolving story, and so we will see what is uncovered in the coming weeks.
Sarah O’Connell | Senior Editor