The company awarded a multi-million-pound government contract to run ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit appears to have “copied and pasted” a key section of its website from a takeaway outlet.
Labour MPs mercilessly mocked Seaborne Freight after discovering the terms and conditions on its website include a section on “placing an order”, which advises visitors what to do “before agreeing to pay for any meal/order”.
The website also urges users to ensure they enter correct delivery details which are “detailed enough for the delivery driver to locate the address in adequate time”, warning “undelivered orders will be chargeable”.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has come under fierce criticism for awarding Seaborne a £13.8m contract to lay on extra crossings in the Channel to ease pressure on the port of Dover if Britain leaves the EU with no deal, alongside two other firms in deals worth £108m.
The company has never run cross-Channel services, and has no ships of its own, but Grayling has said the contract was an example of the government helping “a new start-up business”, insisting: “There is nothing wrong with that”.
After discovering the apparent online blunder, Labour MPs were scathing in their criticism.
The party’s deputy leader Tom Watson tweeted: “Seaborne Freight. No ships, no trading history and website T&Cs copied and pasted from a takeaway delivery site...”
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said: “Awarding a contract to a ferry company with no ships is yet another disgraceful misuse of public money by the Transport Secretary.
“The idea that Chris Grayling is backing a new business and has looked at this ‘very carefully’ is utterly risible. It’s yet another example of his incompetence and mismanagement of the UK’s transport system.”
Ilford MP Mike Gapes posted: “Well. Well. Fish and Chips, Curry, Chinese, Kebab or Pizza. Seaborne Freight certainly have plans to Take Away our money.”
Bristol North West MP Darren Jones added: “Hilarious. Government Hard Brexit start-up champion Seaborne Freight Limited reserves the right to sue you if you order a hoax pizza.”
The Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum meanwhile discovered a string of additional errors and discrepancies on the website, including:
phone lines that appear to be unmanned
a log-in portal that redirects to Google
web features which are “for show” images rather than interactive items, such as the language setting
no advertisements for any job vacancies despite the company needing to be ready for action by the end of March.
Labour MP and Best for Britain supporter Tonia Antoniazzi said: “This is beyond a joke.
“It’s not just that the government have panic-hired a firm with no ships to conduct ferry services.
“That firm has literally nothing prepared to suggests the £13.8m handed over to them is a sound investment.
“The whole thing looks like a scam website. I can’t think of a worse way to show the world we’re ready for Brexit.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said the section of the terms and conditions which appeared to be copied from a takeaway was a mistake which had now been rectified.
They said: “Before any contract was signed, due diligence on Seaborne Freight was carried out both by senior officials at the Department for Transport, and highly reputable independent third party organisations with significant experience and expertise into Seaborne’s financial, technical and legal underpinning.
“This section of the terms and conditions on the company’s website was put up in error. This has now been rectified.”
““The whole thing looks like a scam website. I can’t think of a worse way to show the world we’re ready for Brexit.””
Seaborne aims to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate in Kent to the Belgian port of Ostend, beginning with two ships in late March and increasing to four by the end of the summer.
It was established two years ago and has been in negotiations about running freight ferries between Ramsgate and Ostend, but no services are currently running.
Narrow berths in the port mean there are few suitable commercial vessels available.
In a statement at the end of December, the company said it had been working since 2017 on plans to reintroduce ferry sailings from Ramsgate from early 2019.
Seaborne has been contacted for comment.