Concerns have been raised over whether a £13.8m ferry contract awarded to Seaborne Freight can be successfully implemented by 29 March.
The contract requires Seaborne to run a ferry service between the port of Ramsgate and the Belgian port of Ostend to ease congestion in Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has defended awarding the contract to Seaborne Freight, stating the government sees no problem in supporting new businesses and that it looked carefully at the firm to determine whether it was capable of providing the additional freight service.
Speaking to the Today programme, he said: “This was an invitation to tender and it was one of three companies who successfully bid to deliver services for us. We have put in place a different contract to the other two operators who are big and established, to make sure it can deliver for us.”
Concerns have been raised over the capability of the firm to carry out the task as it has never run a ferry service before and currently doesn’t own any ships.
Paul Messenger, Conservative county councillor for Ramsgate, said he doesn’t believe it would be possible to set up the service by the scheduled 29 March deadline, stating it was impossible for the government to carry out sufficient checks on Seaborne.
He told the BBC: “It has no ships and no trading history so how can due diligence be done? Why choose a company that never moved a single truck in their entire history and give them £14m? I don’t understand the logic of that.”
The decision to award the contract to Seaborne has also been criticised by MPs. Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi said: “We know our ports aren’t ready for a no-deal disaster, but is hiring a firm that’s never dealt with this kind of thing before really going to help? This idea should have been sunk before it saw the light of day.”
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