Immingham and DFDS primed for no-deal Brexit with Government contract

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 2 Jan 2019

Immingham has been identified as an emergency ferry port to bring in essential supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Government has paid Danish shipping giant DFDS to run extra sailings as part of a £100 million package to ease potential problems if the withdrawal agreement collapses.

There are concerns if the Brexit deal isn't done before the March 29 deadline, border checks at British ports could cause major delays, particularly around Dover.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has now signed contracts with Immingham's biggest operator, French firm Brittany Ferries, and the UK’s Seaborne to ensure the “delivery of critical goods” in the event of no deal.

It is believed medicines would be one of the priority cargoes covered under the Brexit deal.

Immingham will be used as an extra site along with Poole, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Felixstowe.

Contracts were not put out to tender, with the DfT saying it was a “situation of extreme urgency” brought about by “unforeseeable events”.

DFDS was awarded a contract worth £47.3m, while Seaborne Freight - which controversially doesn't have any ferries at present - was given a £13.8m deal.

The contract with Brittany Ferries is worth £46.6m, with the company adding 19 return sailings to three routes between the UK and France.

Read more: Brexit opportunity pushed home by ports giant ABP

DFDS currently operates almost 20 return sailings a week between Europe and Immingham, from the ports of Cuxhaven in Germany, Esbjerg in Denmark and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

DFDS chief executive Niels Smedegaard, said in August his company was already preparing for a no-deal Brexit as one potential scenario.

He told shipping trade site Lloyds Loading List: “Right now, everybody is in planning mode for both a 'hard' and 'soft' Brexit.

"So there are lots of plans floating around. We expect people will come to their senses and a (soft Brexit) result will be achieved. However, it this isn't the case, we have our own plans for how we are going to react and are already preparing.”

“We are ready if this unfortunate 'hard' Brexit were to occur.”

It has recently added 10 per cent to its footprint at Immingham, the UK's largest port by tonnage handled, working with operator ABP. 

Brittany Ferries chief executive Christophe Mathieu, was reported in the Guardian saying: “Our priority is to prepare for a no-deal Brexit and to create additional capacity.

“By increasing the number of rotations on routes like Le Havre-Portsmouth we will be able to meet the Department for Transport’s Brexit requirement.

“We will also work hard to minimise impact on existing Brittany Ferries freight customers and passengers, although there may be some changes to some sailing times, for which we apologise in advance.”

Read more: DFDS increases shipping capacity on Norway - Belgium - Immingham route

The plans were described as "complete madness" by the Liberal Democrats, who said public money was being spent "recklessly" to prepare for a no-deal outcome.

A spokesman for the party said: "It is complete madness to see the Government recklessly handing over £100m on preparing British ports for a no-deal scenario.

"The government has the power to stop no-deal at any time but instead is spending millions on last-minute contracts."

A spokesman for the DfT said the extra capacity was a "small but important" part of the department’s planning for the possibility of crashing out of the EU without a deal.

He added: “While remaining committed to working to ensure a deal is reached successfully, the department is helping ensure the rest of government is fully prepared for a range of scenarios, including a particular focus on a potential no-deal and to mitigate the impact of any Brexit outcome on all transport modes.”

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