Firm proposing Ramsgate/Ostend ferry service receives ‘no-deal Brexit’ contract from Government

Seaborne Freight

A contract worth £13.8million has been awarded to Seaborne Freight – the firm that proposes to run a Ramsgate/Ostend ferry route – by the Department for Transport.

The firm is one of three which received a share of £107million in contracts designed to provide extra ferry capacity to UK ports in the event of a no deal Brexit on March 29.

The others are French company Brittany Ferries, receiving £46m and DFDS with an award of £47m.

A report from the BBC says “in documents outlining the agreements, the DfT states that an “unforeseeable” situation of “extreme urgency” meant there was no time for the contracts to be put out to tender – the standard practice for public procurements.”

The ferry firms would add extra crossings to their timetables. It is not clear how the terms for Seaborne Freight, which as yet is not recorded as owning any vessels, will work but the procurement document says there will be”additional freight capacity on ferry services between England and Belgium.” The contract also states the ferry services must be operational by March 29.

It says: “The Department for Transport (the “Authority”) has awarded a contract to Seaborne Freight (UK) Ltd for the supply of additional freight capacity on ferry services between England and Belgium in order to minimise the potential disruption of trade across the Short Straits in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement. The ferry services under the contracts are to be operational by 29.3.2019.”

The notice was released on Christmas Eve.

The company has been contacted for comment.

It is reported additional crossings would be at Poole, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Felixstowe and Immingham. Ramsgate is not specifically mentioned but did form part of contingency plans announced in November.

Thanet council says Ramsgate Port could help in the diversion of lorries Photo Barry Davis, via Wikimedia Commons

The aim is to alleviate pressure on Kent’s roads which would come with a ‘hard border’ and could lead to a backlog of traffic, particularly HGVs, trying to access Dover Port and the Eurotunnel.

In November Thanet council said the Port of Ramsgate could have the potential to provide enough sailings to divert 3,360 lorry movements per day from the planned Operation Brock queuing system on the M20 and M26 to support ‘post-Brexit resilience.’

A spokesman said that a review of the port’s capability had been carried out and, with a £26million investment, Ramsgate has the potential for up to 24 sailings a day.

The Government is looking at plans to combat the Dover ‘bottleneck’ and potentially boost trade with Belgium due to possible routes to Ostend and Rotterdam.

Photo Adam Cowell

Thanet council says Ramsgate Port is one of the UK’s largest municipally-owned commercial ports and is the second closest to the continent, meaning it could play a significant part in providing additional capacity.

But the port cannot currently accommodate the larger cross-Channel ferries with just one vessel identified as being capable of using the  ro-ro facilities due to the restricted size. This is the former Dover-Calais ferry MS Nord Pas de Calais.

Despite negotiations with Seaborne Freight no deal has yet been signed for a ferry service from Ramsgate. A service had been mooted to start in March but there has been no update on progress to date.

There has not been a cross-Channel operation at Ramsgate since the collapse of TransEuropa in 2013 which left Thanet council owed an unpaid debt of £3.4 million accrued by the ferry firm in port fees.

The port also requires significant dredging.

In July Kent County Council said it was urging the Government to invest in the Port of Ramsgate and make more use of current lorry parking facilities at the Manston airport site as part of the Brexit preparations.

Manston airport site Photo Paul Wells

It has been forecast that, in a no-deal Brexit scenario, Kent will need to cope with holding up to 10,000 HGVs on a routine basis.

In the authority’s contigency plan Operation Brock – the updated version of Operation Stack- contains 5 phases for dealing with a backlog of HGVs. Phase 1 uses the A20 and Dover and Eurotunnel buffer zones, phase 2 is a contraflow system on the M20, phase 3 diverts Port of Dover freight to Manston and the A256. The plan outlines capacity at Manston for up to 6,000 lorries.

Phase 4 uses the M26 and phase 5 takes traffic out of the county.


  1. I don’t recall any complaints being made in the past. Except when the tunnel was closed and trucks had to turn up the Paragon.

  2. If there is NO Deal then that should mean we stay in the EU until those who sit in Parliament work out a sensible deal.
    The whole Brexit thing has exposed the UK to look like a load of idiots ( understandably so ) . I am not sure ifs it’s legal for the government to give contracts out with out asking for tenders first unless it is in war time.

    If a deal is reached and the additional ships are not needed, I assume the shipping companies will still be paid fo
    cover the cost of all the preparation.

  3. Seabourne Freight is currently running at a loss and does not have the capacity to deliver on this contract. But let’s not forget that the Minister overseeing this is failing Grayling and look what a mess he is making of our rail transport system so nothing new here

  4. Did our civil servants give due diligence to Seabourne Freight before giving them > £13 Million of taxpayers money? The company isn’t even trading at the moment! All they have in their bank (according to Companies House) is £60. They have NO ferries and not enough money to buy one! Ramsgate isn’t big enough or deep enough to take any ferries other than one, which is presently happily working in the Canary Islands, with NO intention of working in the UK! Dream on TDC!

    • Failing Grayling when Justice secretary made sure Sittingbourne magistrates court was shut now police officers are simply like taxi drivers spend most of the time ferrying people from Isle of Sheppey to Gillingham instead of doing police work as with the Closure of Sittingbourne court the police station was shut too!

  5. Our deal is to walk away, then the Germans ,French and all the 27 counties will be asking for the UK to trade with them, regardless of the EU ruling. If it is still the ruling crowd .

    • If that is the case, then why does a Treasury Report show that under *any* Brexit scenario, we lose in terms of money, jobs and growth. A hard Brexit would be catastrophic for the UK.

          • I want to stay in the EU too. So that’s three at least. And weren’t there a few others? I seem to remember that the results of the advisory referendum were almost 50-50.

          • I don’t believe I indicated my feelings about Brexit one way or the other: I was simply quoting a recent Treasury Report.
            And as for the PEOPLE voting to leave: it was hardly an overwhelming majority in favour of Brexit; and would people have voted Brexit if they’d known that there was no £350M a week for the NHS (and so on)

          • Actually, the ‘people’ did not. A minority of the population who voted, did. Let’s stick to fact over jingoism, eh?

  6. Hopefully have full British crews instead of cheap labour from this he EU or Far East. British waters should mean British jobs.

    • And what happens if you can’t get British crews, because people would rather stay at home and get their JSA than pull themselves together and get a job?

    • David. Did you even read the article? The contract is worth £107 million and over £90 million has been awarded to DFDS (Danish) and Brittany Ferries (French). Is this the brexit you voted for? To create unnecessary jobs in the uk and give the contracts to foreign companies?

  7. How much? £107 million!! Just to cope with Brexit freight disasters? They didn’t mention THAT when we had the first referendum!!

    For that matter, they didn’t mention all the freight jobs going to British workers either. So good luck with that!
    In fact, given the current lack of takers for thousands of lorry driver jobs, and construction jobs, and in agriculture, or care of the elderly, or cleaning, or skilled NHS jobs, it will be necessary to import MORE workers to take any of these new freight jobs because there aren’t any Britons who will take them. They are too busy working in shops and warehouses.

  8. Dear DfT and Chris Grayling,
    STOP wasting taxpayer money, all GBP14m and do your bl**dy homework!

    All 8 directors give the SAME 2 contact addresses:
    59 Mansell Street, London, England, E1 8AN
    Curtis House, 34 Third Avenue, Hove, England, BN3 2PD

    Nothing dodgy here at all

    8 Directors are:
    JONES, Keith Louis Richard April 1954
    BLACKMORE, Peter Hampton
    COPYANS, Jean-Michel, M February 1959
    DUDLEY, Glenn Roy April 1954
    LUCAS, Ralph September 1957
    RAINCOCK, Brian John Dawson July 1937
    SHARP, John Edmund Paul – June 1966
    Sec- DUDLEY, Glenn Roy April 1954

    Curiously such an unusual and similar name of ‘DYDLEY, Glenn Roy’ has also been a director of:
    International Traders Ferry Limited

    Looks like RAINCOCK, BLACKMORE and SHARP have all worked together at Albany Shipping, according to accounts filed, 90k creditors and no revenue/business

    SHARP is also a director at Albany Shipping, Mercator International and 5 other dissolved companies under Merator and Polaris
    JONES is a director Trafalrgar Court Resiential Association and CNRD 2002 Ltd which has had 36 different officers!

    • What is interesting about Glenn Dudley was his involvement in the live export of animal trade through Dover back in the late 1990’s – this was through his directorship of International Traders Ferry Limited (a co-director is Graham Gilder of Gilders Transport, who are a specialist livestock transporter).

      Bearing in mind that Ramsgate currently handles live exports via the vessel Joline, could it be that Seabourne are planning to transport live animals on trucks on their proposed sailings to Oostende (backed by UK Government funds)?

    • I had heard that apparently one of the directors of Seaborne, has a brother either in, or linked to the government. I wonder if there is any truth in that and if so, who is it?

  9. The thing I found interesting looking into the company was that they apparently proposed starting a shipping route between Ramsgate and Ostende in March this year (2018), yet that never happened. Questions need to be asked about that surely.

  10. I hope dft has done due diligence on the company as the company has no assets and no trading history
    I hope all directors have given their personal guarantees to the company in the event company cease trading

  11. Such a shame that both the harbour and the port have been neglected and allowed to silt up to such a degree, as shown in the photo.

    However, the up-side is that given a few more years, the whole area will have been “reclaimed” from the sea and and can be used to build more houses . . .

    • What a idiotic stupid idea to ruin our lovely harbour to build houses on it. Our harbour master has not ,in my idea kept the harbour up to date . Even refusing to let the tall ships to come here. That would have brought a lot of trade to the town. To be honest I think that that part of the harbour looks a disgrace. It never was like that when the ferries were trading here. It looks a right shambles. To get a new pasenger ferry here they would have a lot of work to be done before they could start” that could put off any ferry company .

      • The tall ships, or at least large sailing vessels, regularly visit Ramsgate. I don’t understand your claim that the Harbour Master “refused” to let the tall ships come here – can you point to some authoritative source to back up your statement?

  12. It was in the local paper. The tall ships do not keep comming in to Ramsgate. They did start a race each year starting from some ware In th EU like the Netherlands or up that way , and Ramsgate would have been the Finnish , in fact they did once. After that it did not hen any more. The harbour looked so nice with all those ships moored up. But later on ACCORDING TO THE LOCAL PAPER the organisers wanted to do it again, but we’re turned down by the harbour master. That’s all I Know about it.

  13. Just think about it, if Seaborne Freight appeared on Dragons Den they would be laughing stocks! No trading history, no profits, no experience and no ships – lol! Honestly you couldn’t make it up and hired by the MP who’s claim to fame is messing up the railways! What a mess we are in! A government that repays failure with huge payouts and re-assignment. I wouldn’t be surprised if Seaborne Freight don’t get to keep the money and end up supplying absolutely nothing, unfortunately thats where we are in this post brexit calamity!

  14. Seaborne freight is a shell company run by a load of wide boys trying to make a fast buck. No morals on show here

  15. They are putting old weather reports from last September up on their website! Presumably this is to make it look like they have some knowledge of the sea.

  16. Dear all,
    Firstly I would agree to both businesses, one,the return of Manston Airport and Ramsgate Ferry Port,both are long overdue, Sally Line Ferries and her parent company.
    one ship I believe for about 6 months before getting another ship and started running a excellent service !,
    The down full of Sally was Thanet District Council not letting her berth between January and February with no fees to sustain the winter months she was very successful for a number of years, Thanet District Council needs to get there in House in order before we can go forward in Thanet!,
    I’m a MD successful businessman for over 39 years in Ramsgate with the ups and downs of the economy, that’s life. So as I see it from my perspective let’s hope that both work out,as this will be excellent for all of the Thanet, Dover, and Canterbury, people having to enjoy and work for them both,if i had the chance or the money to do something like this i would not hesitate,as it’s about prosperity for the future.

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