UK government awards £87m Brexit ferry contracts

14 October 2019

The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded contracts to four ferry companies to ensure the supply of vital medicines to the UK following a planned exit from the EU on 31 October. 

The contracts – awarded to Brittany Ferries, DFDS, P&O and Stena Line – are worth £86.6m and will be in place for six months to deliver capacity equivalent to thousands of HGVs per week. 

The ferries will also operate on routes which are “less likely to face potential disruption” if the UK leaves without a deal. 

These include Teesport, Hull, Killingholme, Felixstowe, Harwich, Tilbury, Portsmouth and Poole in the UK and Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, Zeebrugge, Hook of Holland, Rotterdam, Europort, and Vlaardingen.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the contracts had been awarded following a “robust procurement process”.

He said: “The UK is getting ready to leave the EU on the 31 October and, like any sensible government, we are preparing for all outcomes.

“Our decisive action means freight operators will be ready and waiting to transport vital medicines into the country from the moment we leave.”

Last month, Shapps announced eight firms had been appointed to a framework to bid for providing additional capacity to help speed up the procurement process.

The new contracts have been awarded following the cancellation of three controversial ferry contracts earlier this year.

The DfT cancelled contracts with DFDS and Brittany Ferries which had been awarded in December, ahead of the 31 March Brexit date. 

It also cancelled a £13.8m contract with Seaborne Ferries, after it emerged the firm had never run a ferry service and did not own any ships. 

In July 2019, MPs criticised the “rushed and risky procurement” of the additional ferry capacity, which left taxpayers with a bill of around £85m. This included a £33m settlement with Eurotunnel, which took legal action against the department.

Also in July P&O said it had taken legal action against the DfT over the “unfair and unreasonable” settlement paid to Eurotunnel.

Meanwhile, the industry bodies for the UK’s aerospace, automotive, chemicals, food and drink and pharmaceutical sectors have reportedly criticised the prime minister’s plans for post-Brexit trading arrangements. 

In a letter to Brexit secretary Steven Barclay and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, seen by the BBC, the group expressed concerns that existing commitments to maintain regulatory alignment had been dropped and warned this posed a “serious risk to manufacturing competitiveness”.

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