The firm handed a £13.8m deal to run ferry services in the event of a no-deal Brexit despite having no ships has been accused of cutting and pasting its terms and conditions from a takeaway website.
Seaborne Freight was one of three firms awarded contracts totalling £108m last week to lay on additional crossings to ease the pressure on Dover when Britain pulls out of the EU. The move came despite it never having run a Channel service.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling insisted that the company had been properly vetted before being chosen, after concerns were raised over its ability to fulfil the contract.
But eyebrows were raised further today amid claims the terms and conditions on its website appeared to have been lifted wholesale from that of a takeaway delivery service, with references to meal orders and hoax deliveries.
The ‘placing an order’ section of its terms and conditions stated that “it is the responsibility of the customer to ensure delivery address details are correct and detailed enough for the delivery driver to locate the address in adequate time.
“You must always provide a valid contact number and email when ordering online. Please provide additional delivery instructions in the relevant section on our checkout page. In the event that your address cannot be found, undelivered orders will be chargeable.”
And further probing finds a number of other oddities on the firm’s website, including:
– Its log-in portal redirects directly to Google’s home page;
– Neither of the listed phone numbers appear to be manned, with both stating ‘there is no one available to take your call’ and offering no chance to leave a message;
– Other features, such as language settings, are only for show and cannot be clicked on; and
– Despite Grayling saying they are on track to run services from April, the ferry-free firm’s recruitment page is currently empty.
The terms and conditions appear to have been changed today but can still be seen via online archiving services.
Let’s just state this again. Seaborne Freight, the company given the contract to run ferry services from Ramsgate, post-Brexit, appears to have website terms and conditions copied from a fast food delivery site. pic.twitter.com/xY557Rqsgn
— Jon (@ormondroyd) January 2, 2019
Grayling said of the firm yesterday, before the new concerns were raised: “It’s a new start-up business, Government is supporting new business and there is nothing wrong with that.
“We have looked very carefully at this business and have put in place a tight contract that makes sure they can deliver for us.
“This has been looked at very carefully by a team of civil servants who have done due diligence.
“We believe they are on track to run services from April, yes.”
Seaborne aims to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate in Kent to the Belgian port of Ostend, beginning with two ships in late March and increasing to four by the end of the summer.
It was established two years ago and has been in negotiations about running freight ferries between Ramsgate and Ostend, but no services are currently running.
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi MP, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: “This is beyond a joke. It’s not just that the government have panic-hired a firm with no ships to conduct ferry services.
“That firm has literally nothing prepared to suggest the £13.8m handed over to them is a sound investment. They’ve seemingly copied and pasted their terms off a takeaway fast food website, and their login portal sends you back to Google. “The whole thing looks like a scam website. I can’t think of a worse way to show the world we’re ready for Brexit.
“The government have cooked up a raw deal and it’s not what the people ordered in 2016. The people need the final say over Brexit, with the option to cancel it if it’s not to the public’s liking. If not, this will leave a sour taste.”
The New European has attempted to telephone Seaborne Freight but neither of its phone lines appear to be manned. It has yet to respond to an email asking for comment.