Seaborne Freight and the Tax Payer’s £14 Million
Posted on December 31, 2018
The headline on BBC last night was about the activity of a company called Seaborne Freight. It has been given just shy of £14 million of a £100 million contingency plan to provide freight services in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit.
The stand out concern here appears to be that Seaborne were given the money without a tender process…oh and they don’t have any ferries. They don’t have any money or assets either, but that’s just a technicality when you are a start-up business having a pop at getting into the freight industry.
People experienced in business and law decided to dig a little deeper and joining in on a Twitter feed, it didn’t take them long to find out more about Seaborne Freight and those associated with it, many of them with alleged shady links to other companies either not worth anything or liquidated.
For starters, Seaborne Freight is not worth a carrot (it even qualifies for small business enterprise exemption). It was even alleged its registered business address is the same as Maritime law firm, Campbell Johnson Clark, whose director is Mark Bamford. However, it turns out this is not the same Mark Bamford as the JCB empire (who donate millions to the conservative party) so those who still think it is need to act fast, or they will get sued.
Despite that conspiracy theory being false, in short, Chris Grayling has allegedly given out a shipping contract worth £13.8 million, without any due tender process, to a company with no freight industry history, no ferries, no money, and no assets. Tax payers would be right to ask why the government would be so stupid to do such a risky thing as this? Surely, they should award freight contracts to established shipping companies through a detailed tender process?
*It could be because all the established shipping companies are EU based and awarding all these projects to EU firms as part of a Brexit ‘No Deal’ might be politically toxic and not something anyone would want to write on the side of a bus? That’s just a guess from me, but the cost of Brexit is racking up fast and it is not a cost any Brexiteer would be wanting to brag about.
It all suggests that this is a government involved in what is at best, utter incompetence, and at worst nepotism and corruption that cannot be tolerated in a country where business arrangements are quite rightly, vigorously monitored for wrong doing.
For instance, council workers involved in tender processes are not even allowed to accept chocolates or a bottle of wine at Christmas from their suppliers. So how can we have a situation where a government hands out contracts to companies without due diligence or a tender process?
It doesn’t look good does it?
Finally, I have one more concern and it is this. I assume that the £14 million given to Seaborne Freight is that in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, they will have to invest in a ferry or two? This is because, as we know, they don’t currently own any ferries at present.
What happens if we get a deal with the EU passed and the additional freight services are not required? Do Seaborne pay the money back because the government no longer need to operate additional services? Worse still, if a deal is struck, will these operators be able to bill the government for future losses? That’s a genuine question as I don’t know the answer.
Or does this confirm the government are intent on a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and that is why they have spent over £100 million on ferry services? Some would say that the government is right to make contingency planning but if this is the case, they should be transparent about spending another £100 million.
Only time will tell if it is either ineptitude on the part of the government, or corruption; I will let you decide which. It will all come out in the wash but if there is a deal, the government will have wasted another £100 million from the magic money tree we are told that doesn’t exist when soldiers, policemen and nurses ask for a bit more money.
*As part of its ‘No Deal’ contingency planning, the government has also awarded ferry contracts to French company Brittany Ferries (£46.6m) and Danish shipping firm DFDS (£47.3m).
Write that on the side of a bus.