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            june 17, 2019

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Eurotunnel chief slams UK government for 'no-deal' shipping contracts

  17.01.2019    

Eurotunnel has accused the UK government of "anti-competitive" and "distortionary" behaviour for awarding a string of no-deal Brexit contracts to shipping companies such as a start-up that is yet to operate an actual ferry service, according to Shipping Gazette.
Chief executive Jacques Gounon of Getlink, the cross-channel rail operator's parent company, told the UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling the contracts may have been illegally awarded, UK's The Guardian reported.
"It is with serious concern that we have read in press details of agreements between HMG (Her Majesty's government) and certain ferry operators up to GBP107 million (US$ 137.5 million) to provide additional capacity to be sold into the market even if a deal is reached," he wrote.
"I must bring to your attention the distortionary and anti-competitive effects of such an action, which would be a unilateral breach not only of the concession agreement with Eurotunnel, but more widely of existing competition and state aid law."
Mr Gounon was speaking after the controversy over a GBP14 million contract awarded to Seaborne Freight, a startup, to resume a ferry service from Ramsgate in Kent to Ostend in Belgium. The company did not have any ships at the time of the award and is in the process of chartering them.
He pointed out Eurotunnel offered the quickest link to France and the company had already been working on contingency options the government was aware of, including additional freight trains and a terminal for unaccompanied trailers but added that this needed government support.
Mr Gounon said the company was ready and waiting for the government to act and "remains prepared to deliver additional capacity under equivalent contracts to those you have signed with ferry operators."
Mr Grayling announced on Christmas Eve that the government had awarded GBP103 million to three ferry companies to provide additional cargo capacity in the event that the Dover-Calais route becomes congested in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
The largest contracts went to Brittany Ferries and the Danish cargo company DFDS, with the third going to Seaborne Freight.
Mr Grayling defended his department's accelerated tender process and said he made no apologies for supporting a British start-up.
However, he was also criticised by the Calais port chief, who said he was "very angry" over the deal between the government and Seaborne Freight.
"I'm very shocked, I consider it disrespectful for Calais and Dover," Jean-Marc Puissesseau was quoted as saying.



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