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UK Brexit freight and ports contracts start to emerge

25/09/2019

Established ferry companies and a transparent framework process have been established in the wake of the government’s previous, highly criticised attempts to secure additional international freight capacity in the event of a Brexit on World Trade Organisation terms

 

Brittany Ferries, DFDS, Irish Ferries, P&O Ferries, Seatruck and Stena have all made it on to a UK government shortlist to provide international freight capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

 

A total of eight companies are now signed up to the so-called framework that will now allow them to bid for additional freight capacity contracts, thought to be worth up to £300m, on an ad hoc basis during the next four years.

The transparent process and selection of established companies pre-vetted as being able to deliver on contracts marks a careful revision of previous government attempts to secure additional freight capacity that were cancelled in March, losing the government £50m in the process.

The Department for Transport’s previous Brexit ferry plans in the event of a departure on World Trade Organisation terms were heavily criticised, not least by the parliamentary spending watchdog, which described the now cancelled contracts as “rushed”, “risky” and “a non-transparent process”. In the wake of the collapse of the £13.8m contract awarded to Seaborne Freight, a company that owned no ships and had not run a ferry service, the DfT has moved to a new framework process that will remain in place regardless of the vagaries of Brexit and any potential change in key dates.

“By having the firms signed up to the framework, the government has guaranteed a much faster and more efficient procurement process for the next four years, while procuring the framework has not yet committed the government to spending any taxpayers’ money,” the DfT said in a statement.

Further announcements are expected later this week when details of the UK’s £30m emergency Brexit funding for ports infrastructure are expected to be released.

According to the DfT, the funding will enable UK ports to “continue to thrive after Brexit”. It includes £10m for so-called Port Infrastructure Resilience and Connectivity — to pay for upgrades to enhance port capacity and maintain trade.

Lloyd’s List understands that those contracts have now been awarded and announcements of work under way will emerge with details later this week.

A further £5m will be available to four local authority-led Local Resilience Forums in areas with key freight ports, to fund infrastructure improvements designed to minimise traffic disruption at the border.

In addition, there will be £15m for longer-term projects to boost road and rail links to ports.

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