Council deal to buy two huge pontoons for Ramsgate port and harbour set to be rejected

Pontoon at the East Pier Photo Brian Whitehead

A decision to buy two huge pontoons for Ramsgate port and harbour from construction firm BAM Nuttall looks to be off the table after Thanet council Cabinet members indicated they would reject officers’ advice to make the deal.

Councillors had been asked to approve a decision to buy the two 75 metre  barges to provide a new berth 4/5 at the port for firm Brett Aggregates and to provide extra berthing for wind farm vessels at the Royal Harbour.

A decision could not be made tonight after a failure to give five days notice of the item but council leader Rick Everitt said the Cabinet intended to reject the plan of a direct deal with Bam Nuttall and instead put the option for renewing berth 4/5 out to tender and drop proposals for a second pontoon at the harbour.

Thanet council’s Section 151 officer – responsible for ensuring the legality and financial prudence of decisions – had raised concerns over the ‘direct deal’ with Bam Nuttall -excluding other firms from bidding – and questioned whether it would breach procurement rules.

Speaking about the legal advice on the issue Cllr Stuart Piper branded the process as like ‘ a chameleon in the middle of the jungle” forever changing colour.

He called for a total rejection of the plan, saying members had not been given sufficient information and questioning whether Brett’s should be responsible for maintaining the berth rather than the council.

Thanet council says it has a “legally binding agreement” to provide berth facilities for Brett Aggregates.

He also said officer’s advice that “if challenged” a court would need to decide whether the contract was legally sound was much the same as “saying robbing a bank is only a crime if you get caught.”

Green councillor Becky Wing said the business and finance plan, and engineers report, examining the berth purchase and uses should be made public. In a fiery exchange with council chief executive Madeline Homer, Cllr Wing questioned whether the reports even existed.

The pontoons from BAM Nuttall would cost £1.4million, but only if both are bought together. An officer’s report to councillors said alternative options – such as a new floating berth – would prove more expensive.

But Cllr Everitt said the controversial pontoons proposal would be rejected in favour of putting the berth 4/5 project out to tender. Cllr Peter Campbell said the decision meant BAM Nuttall would have to make a bid alongside other firms if they wanted to be considered.

Cllr Everitt added: “It is unfortunate we can’t reach a decision this evening. We will be as open and transparent as we possibly can be on this issue.”

A date for voting on the decision is yet to be set.


  1. Good for Councillor Wing et al. It’s about time the Councillors showed Homer that is is them who actually run the Council and not her.

  2. Probably a case of everyone needing to calm down and look at it all carefully, before it all ends up in the courts and another chunk of cash disappears into the ether.
    Has a contract been signed for the pontoons
    Deposit paid?
    Who’s liable for storage?
    What will transport costs be?
    Is there a liability to provide berths?

    Another bun fight between opposing groups of numpties is going to no good for anyone, is there a sensible clear head to look at this all impartially?

    • In certain circumstances, where there’s great urgency or something that very few suppliers can provide, then it is acceptable not to go out to tender.

  3. Well done Becky Wing.

    Quite why TDC is obliged to fund anything at the port for a private company is bizarre. Yes the port and the harbour need to be maintained with facilities, but why spend all our money on facilities for Bretts? Why not spend the money on the harbour? Leisure tourism? Improved facilities there.

    The port deserves better.

    The harbour deserves better.

  4. Someone on the Ramsgate Action Group blog says “Ugliness is a crime against humanity”. Apart from this being an absurd over-statement, it seems that one reason some people don’t want the pontoons is because they find them ugly. I hope that the debate about the pontoons was not influenced by personal aesthetic opinions. To me, they just look like something you’d expect to find in a harbour. The slipway near the Pavilion could also be descibed as ugly.

    • I’d also expect to find pontoons in a port, of course. And the Border Force ships are functional-looking, not decorative.

  5. A landlord has responsibilities to his tenants. If the roof leaks, he has to fix it. He has to arrange for gas safety checks to be carried out and so on.
    In the same way TDC (the landlord) has contractual obligations to the tenant (Bretts). Just what TDC’s obligations to Brett’s is depends on the contract.

    • Bit a bad analogy ( or perfect depending on level of cynicism) given the standards of management TDC/EKH have shown in respect of its social housing

  6. Thank you Labour Cabinet councillors for this excellent. Cutting through the sordid ways of the previous administration. Well done Mr Everitt

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