Two huge pontoons berthed at Ramsgate harbour are not due to be removed despite a council decision to reject a direct deal to buy them.
The pontoons, owned by construction firm BAM Nuttall, had been the subject of a two for one deal and destined 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.
Councillors were asked to approve the decision to buy the two 75 metre barges but earlier this month members opted to reject the plan
Instead they agreed to approve an option for renewing berth 4/5 by putting it out to tender and dropping proposals for the 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.
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.
However, councillors have decided to move forward with open tender for just the Brett Aggregates berth.
This berth is for the import of aggregates and will be fitted with a permanently fixed 3,000 tonne/hour conveyor… “to facilitate future expansion for the landing of bulk cargos, the trafficking of mobile plant and with a lifespan of a minimum of 30 years.”
Despite the rejection of the Bam Nuttal deal Thanet council says it is not aware of any plans to remove the pontoons from the harbour. The structures are subject to berthing fees and have been at the harbour since September.
A council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that invoices have been raised to BAM Nuttall for fees associated with the two pontoons currently berthed in Ramsgate Harbour.
“The details of individual transactions with any of our customers are treated as confidential.
“We are not currently aware of any plans for the customer to remove the pontoons from the harbour.”
The pontoons were previously in use during a tunnelling operation in London with the 3 million tonnes of materials excavated used to create an RSPB nature reserve at Wallasea Island in Essex.