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New plan to keep ‘critical’ freight moving after Brexit

[ June 27, 2019   //   ]

SEAFREIGHT

New plan to keep ‘critical’ freight moving after Brexit

The Government has announced a new plan to secure freight capacity for vital supplies after Brexit, following the abandonment of transport secretary Chris Grayling’s controversial scheme to hire in ferries at a cost of over £100 million.

In a written parliamentary statement, Cabinet Office Minster David Lidington said that instead of formal deals, ferry and tunnel operators would be told through public information notices of possible future contracts that may be available for tender from September. Companies would be able to express an interest in bidding for contracts on specific services and routes if the UK has not signed an EU withdrawal agreement or if negotiations are continuing.

The contracts would include human and animal medicines and medical equipment along with other ‘critical’ goods.

Grayling’s earlier scheme triggered court cases and out-of-court settlements last year after the Government agreed a £33 million out-of-court settlement to Eurotunnel for being excluded from the initial contracts, only to be counter-sued by P&O Ferries over the payout to Eurotunnel. The DfT had signed deals worth £89m with Brittany Ferries and DFDS; a third operator involving Seaborne and Irish ship operator Arklow dropped out after it revealed that Seaborne had no ships or any experience of running a ferry service.

In response to the latest scheme, the Port of Dover criticised the policy of concentrating only on so-called ‘critical goods’ which “form a small subset of the total volume of goods essential to maintaining our quality of life”.

The port called for a measured and holistic approach that dealt with all trading needs, saying: “We believe a prudent Government should place a commensurate level of attention to ensure that all borders remain open so that other time sensitive essential items, such as perishable foods, continue to flow via the most economic route to market.”

Dover has been working with Government Departments and its business partners on both sides of the Channel for the past 18 months to address the practical issues of keeping trade flowing freely.

It added: “Keeping the traffic moving freely across borders will mean balancing any requirements for declarations around the realities of just-in-time logistics and flexible routing of lorries, and crystallising those requirements in sufficient time for merchants to develop the capability to meet them.  It is in this area of ‘trader readiness’ that Government can have a profound impact.”

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