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Grayling defends controversial freight contract

The transport secretary said Seaborne Freight could provide additional capacity for shipments in the event of a no-deal Brexit

Grayling defends controversial freight contract

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Transport secretary Chris Grayling has defended his decision to award a £13.8m contract to charter extra ferries to a start-up company, Seaborne Freight. 

In parliament Chris Grayling explained the decision as planning for all eventualities and a way of mitigating the impact on transport if no-deal Brexit occurred, particularly around the movement of crucial goods, such as medicines and fresh produce from Europe.

“Given the importance of these routes to the UK economy, it is vital that we put in place contingency plans to mitigate against any disruption that might occur in a no-deal scenario,” Grayling told parliament today.

Three contracts have been awarded, totalling a potential £103m the transport secretary claimed. “Almost 90 per cent of this was to two well established operators”, Grayling said, adding that the contracts are in place to provide additional capacity on already established routes.

The remaining £13.8m of the contract has been awarded to the new British operator, Seaborne Freight to provide a service from the port of Ramsgate that stopped operating five years ago. 

Despite Chris Grayling insisting that no money would be paid to any of the operators unless they were operating ferries on the routes contracted, and that external advisors had assessed all operators, he experienced backlash from Labour politician Andy McDonald. 

McDonald described the decision as having “awarded a £14m contract to a company with no money, no ships, no track record, no employees, no ports, one telephone line and no working website.” It was also highlighted that one of the directors of the company is under investigation by the Government department and in over £1m worth of debt. 

The transport secretary responded by denying the claims made against the directors of the Seaborne Freight and reinforcing the fact that nothing will be paid unless the ferries are operating. 

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