Thousands of cross-Channel ferry passengers have had their journey plans disrupted by the government’s no-deal Brexit contingency planning.
Around 10,000 travellers who had booked with Brittany Ferries between 29 March and mid-May have been told their original sailings have been cancelled and that they have been rebooked on different departures.
Affected passengers were told by email that their original sailing had been cancelled “by the government’s initiatives to create additional ferry capacity for the transportation of critical goods (such as medicines) across the Channel”.
The French company is one of three firms appointed by the Department for Transport (DfT) to provide additional ferry capacity if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. The move is designed to relieve the pressure on short-sea crossings from Dover.
Brittany Ferries has posted an online statement: “We were approached by the Department for Transport as a trusted and reliable ferry operator to see if we could assist with this initiative and have since agreed to play our part.
“The contract guarantees space on some of our ships and Channel routes for the delivery of critical goods post-Brexit.
“The initiative is good news for Brittany Ferries, as it offers some stability and certainty in uncertain times.”
The firm has redrawn its schedules to allow for 19 extra sailings a week from Portsmouth to Le Havre, Poole to Cherbourg and Plymouth to Roscoff.
On Portsmouth-Le Havre and Plymouth-Roscoff, each vessel will make an additional one-way sailing in a day, while on Poole-Cherbourg the ship will sail an extra daily round-trip.
A spokesperson for Brittany Ferries said: “Our customer relations teams are working hard to find suitable alternatives for those who are not happy with the revised sailing we have proposed.”
A decision has not yet been made on whether the revised schedules will continue beyond mid-May. If they do, thousands more passengers will be affected.
The Roscoff-based company is the largest employer of French seafarers. It was awarded the DfT contract outside the normal tendering process, which is allowed “for reasons of extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseeable”.
The Danish ferry firm DFDS and a start-up firm, Seaborne Freight, were appointed in the same manner.
A spokesperson for the DfT said: “We undertook a competitive procurement process to secure additional ferry capacity between the UK and the EU which is in line with proper procedures.”
Seaborne Freight, which proposes a Ramsgate-Ostend link, has no ships at present. It has been widely criticised for copying part of its terms and conditions from a pizza-delivery company.
The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, told MPs: “The management team of Seaborne has extensive experience in the shipping and maritime sector, including the operation of ferry services on cross-channel routes, freight brokerage, port management and vessel chartering.”
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