No-deal Brexit ferry company has no ships

Ramsgate: Seaborne Freight, which won a Brexit £13.8m contract to operate a ferry service between Ramsgate and Ostend has no ships and has never operated a ferry service before.

The government has also awarded contracts for extended ferry services to mainstream ferry operators, Brittany Ferries and DFDS, worth £46.6m and £47.3m respectively.

The new contracts are part of the government’s contingency planning, which aims to ease the potential for severe congestion at main port Dover if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

Seaborne Freight does not own any ships, has not previously operated a ferry service and is not planning to do so until close to the UK’s scheduled departure date from the European Union.

Seaborne hopes to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate from late March, beginning with two ships and increasing to four by the end of the summer.

Seaborne was established two years ago and has been in negotiations about running freight ferries between Ramsgate and Ostend, but no services are currently running. Port infrastructure limits the size of ferry that can operate from Ramsgate.
Ramsgate has not had a cross-Channel service since 2013, when operators TransEuropa collapsed.

The Department for Transport posted notices of the awards on an EU portal on Christmas Eve. BBC reports bought the awards to a larger audience. The BBC notes that “without the award to Seaborne, the government would be a position where the two beneficiaries of a no-deal Brexit were a Danish and a French firm – based, of course, in the EU.”

Seaborne’s chief executive Ben Sharp told the BBC that said the firm had been founded by seasoned shipping veterans but he declined to give details on which ships it planned to use for the service. He said dredging in Ramsgate Port would start on 4 January in preparation for the freight service.

The firm said it had originally intended to start the service in mid-February but this had now been delayed until late March for operational reasons. It said directors and shareholders had been working during the past two years to restart the service.
“This phase has included locating suitable vessels, making arrangements with the ports of Ostend and Ramsgate, building the infrastructure, as well as crewing the ferries once they start operating,” the firm said in a statement.

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