independent

Saturday 23 March 2019

Arklow Shipping leaves ferry talks

Deborah Coleman

An Arklow company at the centre of the controversy surrounding a no-deal Brexit ferry service contract has pulled out of talks with the company, leading to the contract being terminated.

Arklow Shipping Ltd, Ireland's largest shipping company, previously said it intended to invest in Seaborne Freight's venture to provide the ferry service after Seaborne was awarded a £13.8 million (€15.7 million) contract to provide roll-on, roll-off ferries.

When the contract was awarded to Seaborne Freight, there was criticism of that decision as the company did not possess any suitable ships, which is why the services of a company such as Arklow Shipping were required.

In a letter to UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, dated January 18, 2019, James A Tyrrell of Arklow Shipping wrote: 'Arklow Shipping has been working with Seaborne for twelve months in connection with Seaborne's proposals to develop new freight services between the UK and continental Europe.

'Arklow Shipping is therefore familiar with Seaborne's agreement with Her Majesty's Government to provide additional freight capacity in the event of the UK's departure from the European Union on a no deal basis'.

He went on to write that in respect of current proposals to develop a shipping route between Ramsgate in England and Ostend in Belgium.

The Ramsgate to Ostend crossing offers drivers coming from Northern Europe a much more direct route to England, saving around 100km in driving distance and avoiding the congestion and delays that occur around Calais.

'Arklow Shipping intends to provide equity finance for the purchase of both vessels and an equity stake within Seaborne which will be the operating entity of this project', wrote Mr Tyrrell.

The letter read that he 'will be working closely with the team at Seaborne to ensure that they have appropriate support from Arklow Shipping to deliver on their commitments'.

This letter was posted on the GOV.UK website and widely circulated on social media last Sunday.

However at the weekend the British Department of Transport said it had decided to cancel its contract with Seaborne Freight after Arklow Shipping, which it described as the company's 'backer', decided to 'step back from the deal.

Efforts to contact Arklow Shipping in respect of the deal were unsuccessful at the time of going to print however it was reported in the Irish Times and the Guardian newspaper in England that there was no formal deal in place between Arklow Shipping and Seaborne Freight.

After Arklow Shipping's decision to step away from the deal pro-Brexit Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg questioned if 'pressure from the Irish Government' was the reason for Arklow Shipping's decision.

This has since been dismissed by Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee said there was 'absolutely no truth to it'.

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