|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|Belgium, United Kingdom|
|Peter Hampton Blackmore|
Glenn Roy Dudley
Keith Louis Richard Jones
Brian John Dawson Raincock
John Edmund Paul Sharp
Seaborne Freight Limited was incorporated on 5 April 2017, but as of January 2019 ferry operations have not begun. In August 2018 the Belgian media reported that that Seaborne's plans were directly connected to Brexit, while a further report in November 2018 expresses scepticism as to whether ferries would be able to run from March 2019 as originally planned. On 30 August 2018, the leader of Thanet District Council - which had just assumed responsibility for Ramsgate port and harbour - stated that the ferry deal was 'close'.
Contract awarded by British Government
On 22 December 2018, the company was awarded a £13.8 million contract to run ferry services between Ramsgate and Ostend to lessen the consequences of probable capacity constraints on the Dover - Calais route after 29 March 2019 in the case of a no-deal Brexit. The Ramsgate - Ostend route was last operated by Transeuropa Ferries in 2013.
According to the government, the award of the contract without prior publication of an invitation to tender in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) was justified by the "extreme urgency" brought about by unforeseeable events. A negotiated procurement procedure without prior publication in the OJEU is permitted in urgent conditions under Regulation 32 of The Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The announcement that Seaborne Freight had been awarded the contract caused controversy after it was revealed that at the time contract was signed, the company had no ships and had never operated any. Critics also pointed out that the Port of Ramsgate must be dredged before services can begin and raised questions as to whether due diligence checks had been undertaken before the award of the contract. On 3 January 2019 it was reported that dredging had begun in Ramsgate.
Britain's Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, defended the decision to award the contract to Seaborne Freight. Grayling said the contract was an example of the government helping “a new start-up business” and insisted “there is nothing wrong with that”. A spokesperson from the Department for Transport told reporters that “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".
On 3 January 2019, it was reported that the Seaborne Freight website displayed terms and conditions that appeared to have been copied and pasted from an online food ordering website and a boutique jewellery shop. Reports also noted that certain website functions such as the 'Portal Log-in' were in fact non-functional inline images.
On 7 January 2019, Joanna Cherry MP enquired in the House of Commons about the reason for the government using Regulation 32 procedures to enable it to negotiate the Seaborne contract behind closed doors without a published invitation to tender, when it had known for some time that there was a risk of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. She asked whether the government would publish the legal advice it was given that enabled it to proceed under Regulation 32. She was not given an answer. On 9 January 2019, in a Parliamentary Brexit Committee meeting, Ms Cherry asked Christopher Heaton-Harris, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, what "extreme urgency" enabled the government to use Regulation 32, given that the government had had staff working on no-deal Brexit contingeny planning for two years, but again her question was not answered.
The company's chief executive, Ben Sharp, previously ran Mercator, a ship chartering business, that was forced into liquidation following court petitions from HM Revenue and Customs. The amount of unpaid tax was not stated, but the former company had a total of £1.78m in unpaid debts.
Seaborne's founder and Chief Operating Officer, Glenn Dudley, was imprisoned for two months for possessing a shotgun, in relation to a protest by animal rights activists against a live cattle exporting company in Shoreham-by-Sea which he was a director of in the 1990s. The exports were legal but because of the protests the local police had to bring in 1000 extra officers to enable the exports to proceed. One protester was killed during a confrontation with the police. Dudley said he borrowed the shotgun to have it as "what you’d call a backstop" as protection against protesters who picketed his house. Later, when the police decided to withdraw the expensive extra security, the company launched an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.
The mayor of Ostend, Bart Tommelein, has told the BBC that it was "impossible" the port of Ostend will be ready in time for Brexit. On 9 January 2019, the Financial Times reported that Seaborne itself acknowledged that services would run by late April 2019 at the earliest, and that inaccurate investor briefings had been issued by the company.
In October 2017, the ship MS Nord Pas-de-Calais was said by Ferry Shipping News to be lined up for use by Seaborne Freight from "March"  but it was not specified in which year and was not confirmed by Seaborne.
In early January 2019, it was reported that Seaborne was aiming to begin operating services with two ships in late March, rising to four by the end of the summer.
The officers of the company as of 31 December 2018 were:
- Peter Hampton Blackmore, Secretary
- Jean-Michel Copyans, Director
- Glenn Roy Dudley, Director and COO
- Keith Louis Richard Jones, Director
- Ralph Lucas, Director
- Brian John Dawson Raincock, Director
- John Edmund Paul Sharp, Director
Ben Sharp is the Chief Executive and Glenn Dudley is the founder and Chief Operating Officer. Dudley was previously freight sales and marketing manager for MyFerryLink and Jean-Michel Copyans is a former MyFerryLink cargo director.
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- Hannan, Martin (11 January 2019) SNP's Joanna Cherry’s grilling of hapless Tory goes viral in The National. Retrieved 11 January 2019
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