Business, Freight News, Road, Sea

Government slammed over Brexit-busting ferry plans – updated

[ January 2, 2019   //   ]

According to press reports in late December, some £47.3m has been awarded to DFDS and £46.6m to Brittany Ferries to ramp up services on their existing routes, in an apparent bit to ease the pressure on Dover should customs clearance be required for import freight into the UK. It is understood that the extra sailings would be outside the main Calais/Dover corridor.
Brittany said it would add 19 weekly return-sailings on its western channel routes between Roscoff and Plymouth, Cherbourg and Poole and Le Havre and Portsmouth. It would boost freight capacity on the three routes by 50% from 29 March, or by 30% overall on the western Channel.
However, what raised eyebrows in particular was the decision to allocate £13.8m to Seaborne Freight, a company which has been attempting, but so far without success, to restart ferry services on the Ostend/Ramsgate route. In August, Seaborne Freight said it planned plans to start services between Ramsgate and Ostend by the end of the year – in itself a postponement from the earlier 1 March 2018 start date. The company has reportedly been in the process of securing finance, as well as identifying suitable ferries, which are currently in short supply.
The Liberal Democrats criticised the government for failing to put this and the contracts with the other two operators through the normal tender process, arguing that it was a reckless use of public money. The Government claimed that time was too short for tenders to be issued in the usual way.
The extra ferry capacity would presumably have a role in spread the traffic load away from Dover, where post-Brexit customs clearances could create a bottleneck. The extra capacity would also help prevent bunching by spreading traffic between more sailings.
Whether hauliers would willingly forego longer, less frequent sailings to ports other than Dover remain to be seen, however. During the migrants crisis two years ago, many preferred to sit out queues at Dover and Calais rather than commit themselves to less convenient alternatives.

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