Call for independent experts to review losses at Ramsgate Port

Ramsgate Port Photo Maxine Morgan

Ramsgate’s port and harbour finances will be considered by a new council committee.

The panel will hold its first meeting on December 12 where a decision will be made about the inclusion of external advisors.

The call for the panel followed the presentation of a 1,273 signature petition organised by the Ramsgate Action Group declaring a vote of no confidence in the council’s ability to run the port and harbour and demanding that Thanet District Council create an independent working party to investigate the losses and bring forward a comprehensive regeneration plan within six months..

The petition is in response to a £21million deficit since 2010. Losses include £5million in live export compensation paid after the High Court overruled a live export ban from the port put in place by the then-Labour led council and £3.4million for bankrupt TransEuropa Ferries unpaid fees and charges.

Speaking at a full council meeting on Thursday (December 6) RAG chairman Steve Coombes (pictured), who made reference to the council branding of him as a vexatious complainant, outlined booked losses of £2million a year at the port, concerns over the viability of discussions with Seaborne Freight for a Ramsgate/Ostend ferry service and derision at the claim Ramsgate could assist in the event of a no deal Brexit with 24 sailings a day from the port.

He added: “RAG believes councillors have a duty to your voters to put a stop to this. To insist on an open, transparent independent review of the port.”

Mr Coombes said a new port working party should not be serviced by senior council management but have access to independent experts.

His view was backed by Labour councillors Iris Johnston and Karen Constantine.

Council leader Bob Bayford, who came under fire from Cllr Constantine for criticising the number of petition signatories who were from outside of Thanet, confirmed a working party had been arranged.

He said the operation of the port was a priority and that talks were ongoing with Seaborne about the proposed  Ostend/Ramsgate ferry route.

Last October, during the run up to the Ostend elections, town mayor Mr Vande Lanotte announced a ‘basic agreement’ had been made for the ferry line between Ostend and Ramsgate.

He said the route would start with freight but a passenger service could begin shortly afterwards.

The mooted March 1 start date came -and went- with no ferry service in evidence. No contract has been signed by Thanet council and there remains the question of which vessels could serve the route.

Only one vessel has been identified as being suitable for use the port – the former Dover-Calais ferry MS Nord Pas de Calais.

More recent reports from Belgium suggest negotiations for the route are not as far forward as previously stated.

Labour councillor Peter Campbell will be a member of the new working party. He said: “There has been a meeting set up for the working group on December 12. I am on it and this will jot be kicked into the long grass.

“We will form our terms of reference and there may be a place for external experts.”

Mr Coombes said if independent advice was sought the working party could be the beginning of a solution for the port. However, he said if it followed the example of previous committees it would not work.

Read here: Government told Ramsgate Port could provide sailings to divert 3,360 lorries per day ‘post-Brexit’

Read here: Ramsgate Port finances meeting ends in confusion – with suggestion sale of the site could be ‘considered’

3 Comments

  1. TDC’s finances are under severe pressure and it is only going to get worse,much worse,before something gives.Now is not the time to hang on to something on grounds of a misplaced sense of prestige.
    Is is not the biggest municipal port in the country as was claimed, and after 9 years there is little prospect of it ever becoming a viable ferry port.
    It has limited road infrastructure,no rail infrastructure,no dredging facilities,no tugs, and hardly any port facilities.
    After long and it appears fruitless, negotiations,facts have to be faced.Dover and the Channel tunnel are too near for it to compete with any chance of success and there are limited options for tapping into the short sea trade in bulk cargoes.
    The future is an enhanced fishery,wind farm manufacture and support and improved maritime leisure services.
    The medieval ship repair facilities need investment, as does a year round visitor attraction.
    I hope the Cttee can do its work unimpeded, and that the executive at TDC, both political and administrative, take heed of its findings.
    What is needed is a calm,careful , investigation of the options and the why and wherefore behind the alleged losses.Are they actual losses or is the harbour being used as a convenient depository for unconnected central office costs?
    It is going to difficult and painful for TDC, and RAG, having achieved its aims, should let the Cttee get on with its work.

  2. Oh dear, more so called ‘experts’ and the ever so important committee’ who’s members will no doubt be sent around the world on so called “ fact finding “ p** ups” happily spending taxpayers money. At the end of which nothing changes. They should ask the major ferry operators. “Would you like to operate from Ramsgate Port for free?”
    For a 25 year contract.. Then charge each foot passenger £3 each car £10 each van £12 each coach / HGV £16
    Plus parking fees. The ferry company would be responsible for all the facilities and buildings at the port. The council is responsible for dredging and port security. The ferry company pays the council nothing.
    The above works very at another well known port. I am sure the “experts” will find out more.

  3. Surely, Ramsgate port has a future if Brexit goes ahead and Dover becomes such a bottleneck due to all the extra red-tape and documentation involved in crossing “the border” into Europe. There may well be a lot of interest in an alternative Channel crossing, although the back-log of lorries from Dover may well be directed to wait at Manston, making Thanet roads less attractive to haulage companies. Also, I must admit, Brexit will bring a reduction in overall trade anyway, as imported goods may be too expensive for us, and British exports may no longer reach European standards so will not be accepted. So the feared queues of lorries may fade away for lack of interest. On second thoughts, can’t we just stay as we are?

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