Legal faux pas meant no plain sailing for Seaborne Freight

Journalists and the Twitterati had a fresh Brexit-related controversy to chew over early in the New Year: the sorry state of Seaborne Freight’s website.

Seaborne Freight is the British start-up company that was one of three successful tenderers for cross-channel freight services from the end of March 2019. They were awarded a contract worth £13.8M. Unusually, the Government didn’t put the contracts out via the usual procurement methods.

It emerged that Seaborne Freight owned no ships and had never operated a sea-route. With the Government’s Brexit plans unravelling and a tender process run by a transport department under siege, this story offered people a post-Christmas nibble more piquant than piccalilli on a turkey bap.

The Government said that they wanted to support start up business where they could. But questions about the Government’s due diligence would not go away and others set about carrying out their own.

Seaborne Freight hadn’t covered itself in glory in a few areas. Its website was not great, with dead links and inoperable buttons. Their online terms and conditions were apparently filched from a takeaway food delivery service, including such gems as:

Thoroughly check the supplied goods before agreeing to pay for any meal/order.”[1]

Delivery charges are calculated per order and based on [delivery details here].”

I want to draw one lesson from this: it is vital for start-ups to get their basic legal processes and documents right day one. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to work.

We’re creating an affordable package for start-ups and early stage businesses, ensuring they have the right policies, procedures and documents to hand and legal support when they need it. All for not much more than the cost of a gym membership. Having this boxed off early allows the team to get on with the job of winning work and developing products.

Our plan is to help businesses to win work and to help business owners to sleep at night. Why do we think we’re on to something? Here are our top three reasons:

  1. We see a lot of start-ups and early stage businesses who hit problems raising funds or winning contracts because they can’t tick all the due diligence boxes;
  2. We remember what it’s like to be a start-up (we still are!) and have learned through experience;
  3. Seaborne Freight shows us that a big win can suddenly feel like a big loss if you’re exposed without the right documents in place!

Watch this space for more.

The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.


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