A decision to buy two huge pontoons for Ramsgate port and harbour from construction firm BAM Nuttall has been rejected by Thanet council Cabinet members.
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.
But members opted to reject the plan of a direct deal with Bam Nuttall and instead approve the option for renewing berth 4/5 by putting it out to tender and dropping 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.
Thanet council says it has a “legally binding agreement” to provide berth facilities for Brett Aggregates.
Green councillor Becky Wing once again asked when the business and finance plan, and engineers report, would be made public after asking the same question back in September and again in November.
Council leader Rick Everitt said the final costs could not now be confirmed due to using the open tender route.
He added: “The market will determine what the cost is and the council will then decide if it can meet that.”
He added that a cross party Port and Harbour Working Group would ‘be revived.’
An original budget of £887,000 was set aside for the Port of Ramsgate berth 4/5 replacement. It was proposed to move an additional £590,000 for the Ramsgate Harbour Commercial Berth in the deal with Bam Nuttall – equalling £1.4million.
The report to councillors said alternative options would prove more expensive with the estimated cost of replacing berth 4/5 with a floating berth being £723k more than the pontoon offer and a fixed berth costing £1.7m-£2.6 million more.
In regards to seeking open tenders the report from officers added: “This option would leave the current issue of wind farm berthing space unresolved and would not generate the income associated with the provision of additional wind farm berthing.
“Again, with this option it is possible that BAM Nuttall will not engage as they have made it clear that they wish to sell both pontoons together. It is likely that this option will have a higher project cost than the direct award approach as it may be that the only alternative is via a contractor offering a brand new pontoon.
“This would therefore also be in excess of the total budget available of £887k and the original budget value of 1.477m. If this option is selected it is therefore likely to be necessary to identify further project funding. This can only be informed following receipt and evaluation of tenders received.”
Despite the report Cabinet members approved the £887,000 berth 4/5 spend without the Royal Harbour pontoon option and for the contract to be open to tender.