The corruption behind the Tory freight deal with a shipping company that has no ships

Ramsgate ferry terminal: Would it be able to cope with the kind of use required by the Seaborne contract?

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has scored a real hit with his appointment of Seaborne Freight to charter ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit (at a cost of £13,800,000 to the taxpayer).

The company – if it really is a company at all – has no ships, no trading history, has not previously operated a ferry service and is not planning to do so until close to the UK’s scheduled departure date.

The service would run from Ramsgate to Ostend, although questions have been asked about the Kent town’s ability to accommodate it, as well as the company’s fitness for the job.

When I heard about this, the first thing that came to mind was the company that won the contract to supply Kentucky Fried Chicken with, well, chicken – and then utterly failed to provide anything like enough. Its bosses simply had no idea.

But of course, this particular silliness has turned up at a time of multiple Tory government-related sillinesses:

The announcement has been met with widespread scepticism:

Andy McDonald MP described the situation as “Farcical and desperate: No ships, no experience- just the type of company Chris Grayling would choose to keep vital trade channels open.”

And Clare Hepworth OBE pointed out what everybody was thinking – and I have no doubt the pun was intended: “There is something very very fishy about this!”

Yes indeed, as Conservative councillor for Ramsgate, Paul Messenger, pointed out, it seems clear the government has not carried out due diligence – sufficient checks to ensure that Seaborne can do the job.

Perhaps this is the reason:

If Seaborne really is owned by the brother of a huge donor to the Conservative party, it would be serious corruption.

The contract is one of three agreements worth a total of £107.7m signed by the government without a tendering process to help ease “severe congestion” at Dover by securing extra lorry capacity.

DFDS of Denmark is getting £42.3m and the French firm Brittany Ferries is getting £46.6m.

Oh, and while the Department for Transport says the tender was “competitive and open to a wide range of operators”, the Official Journal of the European Union, which logs government procurement contracts, says the awards were made after a “negotiated procedure without a call for competition”.

So there wasn’t even any competition for the contract – Mr Grayling just handed £13.8 million of our cash to a family of Tory donors for a job they can’t do.

Faced with this blatant government corruption, some have resorted to humour…

But the fact remains that the Conservatives – who insist that there is no money available to provide essential services for the well-being of the general public – are giving away millions of pounds to their friends for services they are unlikely to provide.

It’s blatant corruption. And I’m wondering why it’s happening now. Are the Tories rewarding their buddies now, because they expect a major defeat soon?

Note: Since writing this article I have been contacted by colleagues who believe there is no connection between Seaborne’s owners and Tory donors. That may be so, but the questions remain: Why did the Conservatives award a huge shipping contract to a firm that shows no ability to do the job? And why did they do this without any attempt at finding the best operator for the job?

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  1. ducksoap January 1, 2019 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    This will be the norm for the Tories before and after Brexit. A mix of stupidity and venality.

  2. Jeffrey Davies January 1, 2019 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Greyling failed at dwp justice and now transport he’s not fit to run a p up in a brewery

  3. john bowen January 1, 2019 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    my post on your wall about this post. please you are jumping to conclusions with no factual proof we have to hold ourselves higher. this is the comment i did and yes i thoroughly researched as i fact check everything before i comment or post.
    i am however going to stop this, as the post by vox political is actually none factual in this case. according to vox political, it says the two companies share the same address this is true. however so do several other businesses after all this is a building. it then states which is false that it is owned by him, there is no proof of that anywhere, he is not a company director or anything to do with the company, the only coincidence is they are both in the same office building along with many other businesses such as NHS Royal Society For Public Health and many others. there is zero proof he owns the company or has anything to do with it. been looking for hours wish there was, so this is the left side not giving accurate details and that will affect our cause we have to fact check and hold ourselves to a higher standard than the right

    • Mike Sivier January 1, 2019 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      Why are you lying about what the article says?

    • Howard v saqui January 1, 2019 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      Are we suppose to trust your words!

  4. Stu January 1, 2019 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    No ferries are necessary, being a Tory donor his ability to walk on water or part the waves to schedule is accepted without question.

    • Mike Sivier January 1, 2019 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      It’s only a possibility this is a Tory donor, so be careful what you say.

      • Alian January 2, 2019 at 2:23 pm - Reply

        Seems rather a coincidence , does it not ?

  5. Darren January 1, 2019 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    £taxpayers to Bamford to Tory Party to Tory individual’s offshore account. That’s how money laundering usually works, I believe. Once again the police are conspicuous by their absence from a developing crime involving powerful and wealthy Conservatives. We’re at the stage now that I can almost hear the Candle-light Committee in CCO basement asking if what they’re planning is blatant enough to satisfy the Bullingdon Club’s legacy regulations…

  6. kateuk January 1, 2019 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    I’ve worked in international trade for 40 years and the more I think about this the less sense it makes. The hold ups at the ports won’t be lack of ferries at all, it will be Customs clearance. Surely even if we crash out without a deal, there would be some kind of transition period, to phase in Customs clearance over a period of say, 2 years and to allow businessess to make the necessary arrangements. (When we joined the EU the transitional period was 5 years but back then computer systems were in their infancy). Customs clearance is computerised and there is one central system, which was never designed with Brexit in mind, so it won’t cope. Large haulage operators who go outside the EU to destinations such as Norway, Switzerland and Russia, may well have bonded warehouses (well away from the ports) where the goods can be offloaded to await Customs clearance – it doesn’t have to be done at the ports these days. A transition period would of course allow time for more companies to apply for bonded warehouse facilities if required. Even if there was congestion at the ports, running ferries into smaller ports without the infrastructure to cope is a recipe for disaster. Customs brokers (who arrange the clearance) won’t have anyone there, and with stringent government cuts to the border agency in recent years there probably won’t be any Customs officers either so what will this achieve? If Lorries are diverted from their normal routes it will be costly and time consuming – and I’m sure there will be complaints from the regular ferry operators if their profits drop, as they have the capacity – Brexit won’t be bringing more trade from from the EU, in fact it could cause a drop in trade. In conclusion, with what you have said about the company, this simply sounds like some sort of “bung”, and I doubt these ferries,even if they miraculously appear, will ever be used.

    • Joan Edington January 1, 2019 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      I doubt if anyone thinks they will be used. I imagine it is simply a PR exercise to attempt to combat the expectations of ferry queues that have been all over the media. They won’t use the port. Once they have their Brexit they won’t give a toss about queues.

      • kateuk January 2, 2019 at 4:13 pm - Reply

        I’m sure you are right, just a PR stunt. No haulage company in their right mind would try to use a route like this, it makes no sense at all.

    • Paul Rutherford January 1, 2019 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      Spot on about the customs etc. imo.
      It literally made my skin crawl reading about this ‘contract’. A surreal start to 2019’s tory shenanigans?
      How can anyone be so naive that they would give a contract like this to someone with absolutely no previous experience?
      If they’re *not* naive…

  7. Rik January 1, 2019 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Yes Mr Mike . . this is the $64 thousand dollar question only in this case it’s 13.8 mi££ion pound question . . it’s seems very very fishy to me . . but what do I know? I’m only a humble,part of their stock chappie . . Their magic money tree is blooming again I see . .

  8. trev January 1, 2019 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    It absolutely stinks.

  9. Dan January 1, 2019 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    I wonder how many real ferry companies wouldn’t touch this scheme with the proverbial bargepole?

  10. Pat Sheehan January 2, 2019 at 12:21 am - Reply

    The poor, the sick and the escalating numbers of jobless will pay the ‘cost’ of Brexit. It will come out of the welfare budget and state pensions. It will not come out of the Westminster Restaurant champagne and canapé subsidy: we know that now for sure as we see how ‘austerity’ really works! The tory-tragi-brexit carnival of government clowns totters down the hubris rutted road to beckoning ruin and the outstretched arms of patiently waiting nemesis! You couldn’t make it up.

  11. Nick January 2, 2019 at 2:14 am - Reply

    I looked into the Bamford thing; Mark Bamford, brother of Anthony, was born in 1951. The Mark Bamford listed as a director of Campbell Johnston Clark, the law firm based at the same address as Seaborne, was born in 1979, They’re not he same guy. I’m not saying that there may not be a family relationship, andthe deal certainly looks ridiculous, but the implication that they’re the same person is not helpful.

  12. nmac064 January 2, 2019 at 11:00 am - Reply

    For quite some time now the nasty Tory Party has not bothered to hide its corruption. This is just another example – the excuse for failing to put it out to tender is laughable. Corruption, Corruption, Corruption.

  13. Michael McNulty January 2, 2019 at 11:36 am - Reply

    A government contract to a shell company that has never traded? Sounds like a bung for kickbacks, or good old-fashioned political graft. I don’t know any Shakespeare but I’m sure he’d have perfectly described these shenanigans.

  14. ID22152416 January 2, 2019 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Mark Thomas Bamford the director of Campbell Johnson Clark is NOT the brother of Anthony Bamford chairman of JCB and Tory party donor.

    Anthony Bamford was born in 1945:

    Mark Thomas Bamford was born in 1979:

    Anthony Bamford’s actual brother is Mark Joseph Cyril Bamford who was born in 1951:

    Similarly, this article shows the age difference of the Bamford brothers as six years:

    • Mike Sivier January 2, 2019 at 1:04 pm - Reply

      Well there we are, then.
      That established, I’m sure you’ll agree that neither the method of choosing Seaborne, nor the company itself, are entirely shipshape and Bristol fashion.

      • ID22152416 January 2, 2019 at 2:36 pm - Reply

        Why would the government NOT award a contract to the company which has been in discussions with the local council to open up a route between Ostend and Ramsgate?

        • Mike Sivier January 2, 2019 at 3:48 pm - Reply

          Because it hasn’t got any ships or experience in running ferries?

      • ID22152416 January 2, 2019 at 4:04 pm - Reply

        As the article describes, ferries can be easily leased.

        If you look at the directors of Seaborne they all have experience in the commercial sea freight industry, with several being directors of My Ferry Link, also mentioned in the article. Therefore, while the company has not run a ferry, the directors have plenty of industry experience.

        • Mike Sivier January 2, 2019 at 6:25 pm - Reply

          They belonged to a failed company that ran only three ships and was involved in a legal battle with the Competition Commission / Competition and Markets Authority for almost its entire existence.

      • ID22152416 January 2, 2019 at 7:39 pm - Reply

        Which company was that?

        • Mike Sivier January 3, 2019 at 12:20 pm - Reply

          Look it up.

      • ID22152416 January 3, 2019 at 9:10 pm - Reply

        You’re not very good at this debating lark, are you?

        • Mike Sivier January 5, 2019 at 3:30 am - Reply

          You’re not very good at this trolling lark.

  15. Carol Fraser January 2, 2019 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Have a look at Peter Hampton Blackmore he’s on the board with several other somewhat shady characters. Yes he’s the Hilton Hampton Bod. The board of this tenuous company are all big doners to the leave campaign. It’s money for the boys

    • ID22152416 January 2, 2019 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      Can you expand on Peter Hampton Blackmore?

  16. R.P. Scales January 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    I’ve been looking at the Companies House profile for Seaborne Freight, and I can’t find Bamford anywhere. Where did you get the information from, other than the crazed imagination of David Icke?

    • Mike Sivier January 3, 2019 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      Why do you mention David Icke?

  17. Ben Marshall January 4, 2019 at 11:39 am - Reply

    This is NOT the same Mark Bamford as in JCB, these are two different people! The Bamford involved in the maritime lawyers at the same address as Seaborne is considerably younger!

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