A transport firm handed a £13.8m contract to run additional ferries inside the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, has defended itself amid criticism it might not at current have any ships.
Questions had been raised over the Government’s preparations after it emerged Seaborne Freight was thought of one in every of three companies awarded contracts totalling £108m closing week to placed on additional freight crossings to ease the stress on Dover.
Seaborne talked about it was on monitor to start out out twice-daily sailings by the highest of March – when the UK is due to depart the EU – having initially consider to launch Ramsgate-Ostend crossings all through February.
The firm talked about in an announcement that it had been working since 2017 on plans to reintroduce ferry sailings from Ramsgate starting in early 2019.
It talked about “development phase” included “locating suitable vessels, making arrangements with the ports of Ostend and Ramsgate, building the infrastructure, such as bunkering, as well as crewing the ferries once they start operating”.
The firm plans to start out out with two ships in late March and enhance to 4 by late summer season, the assertion added.
A Department for Transport spokesman talked about: “This contract was awarded inside the full data that Seaborne Freight is a model new transport provider, and that the extra functionality and vessels may very well be provided as part of its first suppliers.
Seaborne talked about its difficulties included slim berths on the Kent port.
Its assertion moreover talked about: “It was meant to start out out the service in mid-February nevertheless this has now been delayed until late March for operational causes.
“This coincides with the Department for Transport’s Freight Capacity Purchase Agreement with Seaborne which is part of their preparations to increase ferry capacity in the unlikely event of a no-deal Brexit.”
Ministers confronted questions over the contract from all through the political divide.
Paul Messenger, a Conservative county councillor for Ramsgate, questioned in a BBC interview whether or not or not the federal authorities had carried out sufficient checks on the firm, saying: “It has no ships and no trading history so how can due diligence be done?”
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi, a campaigner for a second referendum, talked about: “We know our ports aren’t ready for a no-deal disaster, nevertheless is hiring a firm that’s by no means dealt with this kind of issue sooner than really going to help?
“This thought ought to have been sunk earlier than it noticed the sunshine of day”, she concluded.
Ramsgate has not had a cross-Channel service since operators TransEuropa collapsed in 2013.