DfT announces no-deal freight shortlist – and reveals ports most at risk of disruption

DfT says freight services will avoid Dover, Folkestone or Barking, where Brexit disruption is likely

Seatruck Ferries, which runs crossings between Britain and Ireland, is among the eight operators in the freight capacity framework. Photo: Carsten Rehder/DPA/PA

The Department for Transport has announced the roster of eight freight companies that government departments will use to transport medicines into the UK after a no-deal Brexit.

The eight successful bidders – five ferry operators, one rail company and an air charter firm – have been invited to bid for the first contracts to bring in critical goods after 31 October, DfT said.

The companies include Brittany Ferries and DFDS, the two ferry operators given contracts at the end of last year in preparation for the UK’s planned exit from the EU on 29 March. The contracts were later scrapped and DfT was forced to pay the two firms a total of £51.4m to cut them short.


Eurotunnel, which sued the government for £33m over its handling of the original contracts, was also among the successful bidders. So too is P&O Ferries, which is in the process of suing the government for a similar figure, arguing that the payout to Eurotunnel was anticompetitive.

The list also includes Air Charter Services Ltd, which charters private jet, helicopter and cargo aircraft, and three more sea freight companies: Irish Ferries and Seatruck Ferries, which run crossings between Britain and Ireland, and Stena Line, which also operates across several other EU countries.

DfT has said it expects the framework to handle contracts worth up to £300m, excluding VAT, over the four-year period after Brexit. The figure accounts is based on the possible frequency of “disruption events” such as congested roads or terminals and delays from border checks, the department said.

Government departments, some NHS trusts and the devolved administrations will use the framework to run “call-off mini competitions” for contracts.

The first contracts are expected to be in place before 31 October to prevent shortages of medicines and other critical goods in a no-deal Brexit.

Imports using the framework will avoid the ports and airports where DfT has determined disruption is most likely to happen in a no-deal outcome, the department said.

It said the services would therefore not use the freight terminals of Dover, Folkestone or Barking in the UK, or Dunkirk, Calais, or Boulogne-sur-Mer Coquelles in France, blaming a “potential lack of trader readiness” for possible disruption.

Commenting on the framework, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the framework “guarantees long-term national resilience” and is part of the government’s efforts to “do whatever it takes to ensure the flow of life-saving medicines into the UK”.

“I’m confident the combined expertise of these high quality and experienced firms appointed to the framework will ensure we are ready for Brexit day and beyond,” he said.

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