It's been revealed Seaborne Freight, one of the firms contracted by Whitehall to charter ferries in the event of a ‘no deal' Brexit, doesn't own any ships, hasn't previously operated a ferry service of any kind, and isn't planning to do so until the UK's scheduled March 19 2019 European Union departure date.
The firm's lack of experience was exposed by local Conservative councillor Paul Messenger, who told the BBC he doesn't "understand the logic" of the move.
"It has no ships and no trading history so how can due diligence be done? Why choose a company that never moved a single truck in their entire history?" he explained.
— Anthony Behan (@technopolitics) December 30, 2018
Despite its apparent lack of experience, the company was awarded a US$18 million contract — without a tendering process — to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate, Kent to Ostend, Belgium in the event the UK leaves the EU without a deal, in order to help potentially severe congestion. The firm would get to keep at least some of the funding should a deal be agreed by the time of the UK's secession.
French operator Brittany Ferries and Danish firm DFDS were also awarded UK government contracts in the event of no deal, theoretically allowing almost 4,000 more lorries a week to come and go from Dover.
— Chris Rand (@ChrisRandWrites) December 30, 2018
A Department for Transport spokesperson said the contract was "awarded in the full knowledge Seaborne Freight is a new shipping provider, and that the extra capacity and vessels would be provided as part of its first services".
"As with all contracts, we carefully vetted the company's commercial, technical and financial position in detail before making the award," they added.