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Britain scraps Brexit ferry deal

Politico, Feb 10

The British government said on Saturday that it has scrapped a contract to provide emergency ferry services across the Channel in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as the company in question has no access to ships.

Under the deal, Seaborne Freight had committed to providing services between Ramsgate in Kent and the Belgian port of Ostend — reviving a route that has been dormant since 2013 after the last operator went bust.

The aim was to provide emergency ferry capacity should the introduction of custom checks around the Dover-Calais maritime link lead to heavy congestion and delays after Brexit.

But without ships of its own, Seaborne's contract relied on a previously unconfirmed support arrangement with Ireland's Arklow Shipping. The company claims to have a fleet of 45 ships suitable for shifting everything from containers to grain, but will no longer back Seaborne's government contract.

“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," a spokesperson at the Department for Transport said Saturday.

The contract with Seaborne Freight was worth £13.8 million and part of a trio of arrangements that included larger deals with DFDS and Brittany Ferries. Transport Minister Chris Grayling has been under pressure over the contracts but the spokesperson said the department was in "advanced talks" with multiple companies about replacement services via Ramsgate, where preparatory dredging work has already begun.

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