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UK: Seaborne Freight no-deal Brexit ferry contract scrapped

After the Irish company backing the deal pulled out, the UK government has scuppered its no-deal Brexit contract with a ferry company that turned out to have no ships.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had faced criticism for the £13.8m deal with Seaborne Freight, which the BBC found had never run a ferry service. Meanwhile, Labour has called on Grayling to resign or be sacked, describing him as "the worst secretary of state ever".

The government said it is in "advanced talks" to find another ferry firm. But local MP Craig Mackinlay said this could be the "last throw of the dice" for commercial shipping from Ramsgate.

Seaborne Freight was awarded the £13.8 million contract in December to run a freight service between Ramsgate and Ostend, Belgium, in the event that Britain leaves the EU without a deal. The government was criticised for choosing Seaborne Freight, a company with no ships or trading history, and for leaving too little time to establish the new ferry service before the Brexit deadline of 29 March.

Also, local politicians in both Ramsgate and Ostend warned that the ports at both ends of the route will not be ready the deadline. At the time, the government said it awarded the contract "in the full knowledge" that Seaborne, which was formed in April 2017, was "a new shipping provider" but said the company had been "carefully vetted".

According to bbc.com¸ on Saturday it was reported that Arklow Shipping, a major Irish shipping firm, withdrew its support from Seaborne "without warning".


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