South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay asks government to foot the bill to keep Ramsgate Port ‘ferry ready’

Craig Mackinlay

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will “ensure” the Department of Transport looks at the issue of costs to Thanet council for keeping Ramsgate Port ready for ferry crossings.

She made the pledge in Parliament today (February 13) in response to a question from South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay.

The MP asked for assurances Thanet council would be “indemnified” for costs “from here on in”  for keeping the port in a state of readiness for potential post-Brexit extra ferry crossing capacity.

The plea has been made days after a £13.8m contract between Seaborne Freight, which proposes to un a Ramsgate/Ostende route, and the Department of Transport was terminated.

Ramsgate Port Photo Trevor Shonk

The contract with Seaborne Freight was awarded in December as part of Post-Brexit resilience plans to ease possible backlogs at Dover {Port and the Channel Tunnel –  despite Seaborne being a start-up company with no vessels or track record.

But it was axed last week with government saying Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements and the firm’s’ backer’ Arklow Shipping had pulled out of the deal.

Arklow’s involvement had not been made public prior to the announcement of Seaborne’s contract being terminated and the Irish shipping firm has said no deal was signed between the two companies.

Thanet council has plans to ditch £500,000 used to keep Ramsgate port in readiness for a ferry operation and axe a further £130,000, totalling £630,000 – or £730,000 in a full year -from its 2019/20 budget if no ferry contract is signed.

The authority needs savings of £1.8 million in order to balance the books. Councillors have been told the biggest expense is at Ramsgate Port.

The budget report was due to be voted through on February 7 but was  withdrawn   following discussions between Thanet council leader Bob Bayford and Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling that afternoon.

Cllr Bayford said that although an ‘uncomfortable decision’ may have to be made to close sections of the port and make cost savings the approach from the Department for Transport would delay that until a date on or before March 11.

News broke of the contract termination just over 24 hours later.

Ramsgate Port has racked up a £20million 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.

 Photo John Horton

Mr Mackinlay said: ““I’ve always considered the likelihood of delay at the Dover-Calais crossing to be remote no matter what the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

“Regional representatives from the Pas de Calais share my view because international law governing cross-border trade protects the crossing.

“I know the Department for Transport is already in talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity and Ramsgate will remain at a state of readiness under any outcome.

“Thanet will do what’s in the national interest to assist with Brexit preparedness; we’ll be proud to do so, but it’s wrong to expect Thanet taxpayers to pay for it.

“I’ll continue to stand up for South Thanet and have pointed out forcefully to the government that local taxpayers must not be financially disadvantaged by national Brexit preparations undertaken locally.”

The MP has also berated Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said the Seaborne contract decision had increased  Thanet council’s deficit by £2million.

Mr Mackinlay questioned where the figure had come from, saying it was news to himself and the council.


Thanet’s Lib Dem party says the PM’s answer evaded giving a specific pledge that government would foot the bill for port readiness.

Martyn Pennington, Chair of East Kent Coast Liberal Democrats, said: “It’s clear that our Tory MPs are incapable of standing up for Thanet, and TDC has remained a laughing stock. Why hasn’t Grayling resigned? He plays politics with Manston.

“Meanwhile Gale and Mackinlay have done nothing for us – our health services are being dismantled and moved elsewhere, our bus services are being axed, and our schools are in crisis.”

Read here: Report reveals Government warned of ‘high risk’ of Seaborne ferry contract and £3 million Ramsgate Port funding pledge


  1. We need to look at these costs with ‘full cost recovery’ in mind. The total cost must be found. The people of Thanet should not be left to pick up a hefty bill. Officer time, consultant time etc must be counted in. If the U.K. Government require Ramsgate Port as part of our Brexit Prepardness then I suggest that they pay for it. The pockets in Thanet are not deep enough!

  2. MP Craig Mackinlay Would not have said anything had Jeremy Corbin not brought the matter up. What does it take for the incompetent failing Grayling to be sacked. He is less than useless.

  3. Mackinlay and Gale……sounds, like a couple if dodgy estate agents and that’s probably not doing the reputation of that industry any favours. These two clowns have presided over the depreciation of Thanet by standing by their,political masters who have stripped every penny they can from an area that has historically suffered deprivation.
    If there is any suggestion that we as Thanet tax payers would have to pick up the tab for what has been even for the conservatives an absolute shambles. The press must investigate and report to their readers of any evidence they have that money is being diverted away from local services. We hear today that TDC intend to hike our council tax by up to 5%. while reducing much of the public services. The people of Thanet must fight this injustice and ensure that our leaders are transparent and answerable for their decisions.

  4. Is there any hard information available as to exactly who has paid/is paying for the current dredging work at Ramsgate? I have to say that I find Mr. C. an equal waste of space, but he may at least have a point if he is referring to TDC ending up paying these costs.. for nothing it seems at the moment. On the other hand he may simply be misinterpreting the published figures, like most reporting.

  5. Mr.Riddle……rather like your comments. Clearly another Tory apologist an expert in denigrating the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn in particular. Sir, are you aware that despite having TWO Tory MP’s Mr.C. was the person asking the question about this debacle and the potential cost to us poor fools in Thanet. Mr. Riddle ……quite apt I would suggest.

  6. SIAB.. after what looked like a complimentary start, I think you have managed to misinterpret my post in every conceivable way. I have no particular political leanings but hate all lies and misrepresentation. My comments regarding Mr. C relate more to his overall lack of a credible opposition stance to anything.. especially Brexit where he has nothing new to offer and persists in considering that the present situation with the EU is significantly renegotiable. Specifically in relation to this IoTN article my comment relates purely to what was reported above.. namely his reported *statement* that “the Seaborne contract decision has increased Thanet Council’s deficit by £2 million”. It was not posed as a *question*. As Kathy Bailes has commented, the information available indicates that Seaborne has paid for the dredging, so unless further monies have been spent that has not been publicly disclosed, his statement is clearly inaccurate.

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