No-deal ferries in doubt as Irish firm withdraws its financial backing

Tolga Akmen  Getty Images

Tolga Akmen Getty Images

Seaborne Freight was awarded the £13.8m contract in December to run a freight service between Ramsgate and Ostend, Belgium, in the event that Britain leaves the European Union without a deal. We have therefore chose to terminate our agreement.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "It became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the government".

A no-deal Brexit ferry contract awarded to a company with no ferries has been canceled by the United Kingdom government after the firm's backer, an Irish shipping company, pulled out.

The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed the contract had been terminated on Saturday morning after Irish company Arklow Shipping, which had backed Seaborne Freight, stepped away from the deal.

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"When is the PM going to take action and accept that Chris Grayling is not up to the job", the party said.

It said the government was "in advanced talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity" if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne told BBC Radio 4's Today: 'It's just another example of a major disaster on the hands of Chris Grayling, who actually must now really class as the worst Secretary of State ever'.

"Whilst Theresa May needs the few friends she has right now, we can not have this incompetent transport secretary carry on heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country".

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"It is one catastrophe to another with Chris Grayling".

The government said that no taxpayer money has been transferred to Seaborne.

At the time, the government said that it awarded the contract "in the full knowledge that Seaborne is a new shipping provider" and said that the company had been "carefully vetted".

In late December 2018, the government confirmed that the United Kingdom was to spend more than £100m on extra ferries to ease "severe congestion" at Dover, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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Seaborne had been contracted to provide services between Ramsgate in southeast England and the Belgian port of Ostend to ease pressure on the busiest cross-Channel route between Dover, England, and Calais, France. Ramsgate has not had a regular ferry service since 2013 and needs to be dredged before services can start.

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