Ferry contract awarded to firm with no ships terminated

Tolga Akmen  Getty Images

Tolga Akmen Getty Images

The Daily Telegraph, which first reported the cancelled contract, said Arklow Shipping, a major Irish shipping firm, withdrew its support from Seaborne "without warning".

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said on Saturday the contract was terminated after Seaborne Freight's backer, Irish firm Arklow Shipping, made a decision to step back from the deal.

The UK's Department of Transport has cancelled a £13.8 million contract given to a freight company to keep ferries moving across the Channel in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"He has no grip on the very serious nature of his job".

Labour said Mr Grayling "has to go", with Jeremy Corbyn describing the situation as "completely ludicrous".

"Following the decision of Seaborne Freight's backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the deal, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the government".

But the government faced strong criticism 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.

The Department of Transport said it chose to axe the deal after the company's Irish backer pulled out.

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The spokeswoman said the government was 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.

Lawmaker Joanna Cherry, of the opposition Scottish National Party, tweeted that she would continue to pursue the question of whether the government breached procurement law in awarding the contract to Seaborne Freight.

A withdrawal agreement between British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government and the European Union was rejected last month by Britain's Parliament, and European Union officials are resisting United Kingdom attempts to renegotiate it.

Britain awarded contracts worth more than 100 million pounds in total to three shipping firms to provide extra ferries.

However, the DfT revealed it has terminated the deal with the freight company after Irish company Arklow Shipping, which had provided backing to the deal, stepped away.

No taxpayer funds have been transferred to the company, it said.

"The whole exercise is a complete and utter shambles with the government ignoring union calls on what needs to happen".

"Instead ‎they are blundering on from crisis to crisis".

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