As controversy swirled yesterday around Seaborne Freight, the start-up shipping company without ships contracted by the UK government to run ferries to Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a Dutch company began dredging the port at Ramsgate, Kent in preparation for Seaborne’s operations.
The dredging company is Van Oord, as it confirmed to GCR today.
Kevin Root, Seaborne Freight’s ports manager, told news portal KentOnline that his firm was paying for the dredging work, which is necessary to make the port ready for a ferry service from Ramsgate to Ostend, Belgium, due to begin at the end of March.
The company was awarded a £13.8m contract to operate a ferry service to alleviate pressure on the port of Dover if Britain exits the EU without a deal on 29 March, but transport secretary Chis Grayling faced criticism when it emerged last week that Seaborne Freight had formed only two years ago and had no registered ships or track record.
Two other companies, Brittany Ferries and DFDS, also received contracts worth £46m and £47m, respectively.
Yesterday Channel 4 News reported that contracts have not yet been signed with the ports at either Ramsgate or Ostend.
Grayling’s plan faced ridicule yesterday when it emerged that Seaborne Freight’s business terms and conditions on its website had references to placing "any meal/order", prompting speculation that the firm had copied the format from a food takeaway company.Â Â
This week Grayling defended the contract awarded to Seaborne Freight, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 2 January that the firm had been properly vetted. He said: "It’s a new start-up business, government is supporting new business and there is nothing wrong with that."
He added: "I make no apologies for supporting a new British business."
- Updated 4 January to include the confirmation of Van Oord as the dredging company.
Photograph: Royal harbour piers, Ramsgate (Penny Mayes/CC BY-SA 2.0)