Seaborne Freight has been in the headlines after being awarded a £13.8million government contract to provide extra ferry capacity in the event of a no deal Brexit on March 29 – despite being a start-up company with no vessels or track record as yet.
The firm, which is proposing to run a Ramsgate/Ostend service, says operations will start in late March – to coincide with the UK withdrawal from the European Union – initially with two ships.
Despite prolonged negotiations no announcement has yet been made that a deal has been signed with Thanet council for the route.. A service had been mooted to start in March last year but the date came -and went – with no sign of progress.
In a statement Seaborne Freight says directors and shareholders have been working over the last two years on a business plan to reintroduce the Ramsgate to Ostend ferry service from early 2019.
A spokesman said: “During the development phase and pending the finalisation of robust funding arrangements, the business has been financed by the shareholders.
“This phase has included locating suitable vessels, making arrangements with the ports of Ostend and Ramsgate, building the infrastructure, such as bunkering, as well as crewing the ferries once they start operating. A work-up phase is part of the programme and training will be provided by a specialist organisation.”
So, who exactly are the directors of Seaborne:
Glenn Dudley, 64, was formerly involved with the export of live cattle from Shoreham in the 1990s.
He was a director of International Trader’s Ferry which was formed by cattle farmers who wanted to export live calves to the continent for slaughter.
Campaigners against live exports protested and police had to draft in hundreds of extra officers. Exports were eventually moved to Dover and fizzled out due to the BSE crisis.
Mr Dudley also worked for MyFerryLink which was set up following the demise of SeaFrance. The ships were leased to MyFerryLink by a workers’ co-operative, Scop SeaFrance, which in turn leased from Eurotunnel. This sparked a Competition Commission ruling which eventually led to Euotunnel not renewing the leases. This in turn led to workers strikes and their occupation of boththe MS Rodin and MS Berlioz in the Port of Calais. Ships were then sabotaged in protest of their impending lease-buy to competitor DFDS.
John-Michel Copyans was also involved with MyFerryLink and French state-owned rail company SNCF.
Ben Sharp – listed on Companies House as John Sharp – is a former submarine officer in the Royal Navy.
He created ship chartering company Mercator which went into liquidation with £1.7million debt, inclusive of money owed to HMRC.
He is also a director of Albany Shipping, which is a “vessel operator in the offshore and oil and gas industry. It is also an Investment Advisor to a UK Shipping Fund,” according to the company website. According to the financial statements this company is dependent on loans from one of the directors who is currently owed £89,074.
According to the Albany Shipping website, Mr Sharp, 50, served for 10 years as a Navy submarine officer. gaining an engineering degree and completing his naval professional training. After his service in The Royal Navy, he went to the City of London where he re-trained as a marine underwriter and became the general manager of a P&I management company. In 2002, he joined QBE-HKSI Insurance Limited (QBE) in Hong Kong as the Regional Protection & Indemnity Insurance Underwriter and subsequently the Marine Underwriter of QBE Hong Kong.
The site adds: “In 2005, Ben formed his own company Mercator in Hong Kong with the primary aim of providing consultancy to financial institutions and chartering/operating vessels. Mercator has operated over 20 vessels for a variety of offshore projects and undertaken consultancy to International Financial Institutions. In 2014, Ben took the decision to develop Mercator into a Ship Owner Operator and Albany Shipping Limited was formed to achieve this.”
Brian Raincock, an insurance consultant for LML litigation management, and Keith Jones are also directors of Albany Shipping.
Peter Hampton Blackmore is a solicitor and a director at LML and Ralph Lucas is listed as a company director living in Wales.
Mr Blackmore and Mr Raincock were also both directors of company Litigation Protection which went into voluntary liquidation in 2017.