Brexit ferry firm Seaborne in terms and conditions gaffe


Transport Secretary Chris GraylingImage copyright
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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has defended the Seaborne contract

A firm awarded a government contract to provide extra ferry services has used website terms and conditions apparently intended for a takeaway food firm.

Seaborne Freight was given the £13.8m contract to run a freight service between Ramsgate and Ostend in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Its original terms and conditions advised customers to check goods before “agreeing to pay for any meal/order”.

The government said the section was “put up in error” and was now correct.

In a statement, the Department for Transport said: “Before any contract was signed, due diligence on Seaborne Freight was carried out both by senior officials at the Department for Transport, and highly reputable independent third party organisations with significant experience and expertise into Seaborne’s financial, technical and legal underpinning.”

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The government has been criticised for awarding the contract to a firm which has never run a ferry service and has no ships.

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Andy McDonald, has written a letter to Secretary of State Chris Grayling suggesting the company was established “in an opportunistic manner” and suggesting that the decision to award it a contract did not reflect well on the government’s approach to Brexit contingency planning.

Mr McDonald requested further details concerning Seaborne Freight’s ability to fulfil the contract and over how the tendering process was conducted.

Twitter user @ormondroyd unearthed the original terms and conditions posted by Seaborne.

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Seaborne Freight

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Part screengrab of the original Seaborne T&C

On Wednesday, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the government had “looked very carefully” at the business.

“We have put in place a tight contract to make sure they can deliver for us,” he told the Today Programme.

Before the correction, Seaborne’s terms and conditions contained other lines that appeared to be for a completely different business.

“Delivery charges are calculated per order and based on [delivery details here]. Any delivery charges will be displayed clearly in your order summary,” the original T&C’s said.

Seaborne’s contract was one of three awarded to ease “severe congestion” at Dover, in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The contingency plans allow for almost 4,000 more lorries a week to come and go from other ports, including Plymouth, Poole, and Portsmouth.

In total the contracts are worth £103m.

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