The controversial £13.8m ferry contract awarded to Seaborne Freight as part of no-deal Brexit plans has been scrapped, despite the company having no ships lined up and no experience in the field, has been cancelled.
The UK Department of Transport, which continues to maintain that the company was fully vetted before the contract was awarded, said it made the decision after Ireland-based Arklow Shipping, the company’s backer, pulled out.
The government said that it was in “advanced talks” to find another company.
Arklow Shipping was claimed to have withdrawn its support from Seaborne at short-to-no notice.
Last December eyebrows were raised when Seaborne Freight was the one UK company of three that were signed up to run freight services in the case of a No Deal Brexit. Seaborne Freight said that it would run ferries between Ramsgate and Ostend, despite Ramsgate not having had a ferry service for more than five years, the uncertainty that ships could be chartered in time for the service, and the need to dredge Ramsgate Port so that it would have enough width and draught to hold the larger size of modern ferries.
On Saturday February 9th the Department of Transport said that it had become clear that Seaborne “would not reach its contractual requirements”.
A DoT spokesman said that “the government is already in advanced talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity – including through the Port of Ramsgate – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
The UK government said that its confidence in the viability of the deal with Seaborne was based on Arklow Shipping’s backing of the company and the assurances it received from them.