Possible delay on Ramsgate berth contract could ‘cost millions’ in ‘worst case’ says council

The old Berth 4/5

A preferred contractor to replace berth 4/5 at Ramsgate Port has been chosen – but contracts cannot be signed due to issues with the start date that could cost Thanet council £11,000 per week if missed – and even result in a bill for millions “in the worst case.”

Last December Cabinet members agreed to move forward with open tender for replacement of the Brett Aggregates berth at the port.

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.” It will be capable of docking 120m vessels.

The current berth was built in 2006 and supports one 400 tonne per hour conveyor belt and is capable of docking 90m vessels.

The tender follows the rejection of a ‘two for one’ deal on pontoons owned by construction firm BAM Nuttall.

Bam Nuttall pontoon Photo Brian Whitehead

The 75 metre pontoons had been destined to provide the new berth 4/5 at the port for Brett Aggregates and to create extra berthing for wind farm vessels at the Royal Harbour.

Councillors rejected the plan in favour of the open tender. This process has now been undertaken and the council has a preferred supplier although TDC says it cannot release details until contracts are signed.

However, the process is on hold while the council waits for a marine licence from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) – expected by September 8.

The contract start date has been set for September 14 but could be delayed because the MMO wants the work screened for an environmental impact assessment – which could add eight weeks to the plans.

Brett Aggregates

In a message to councillors TDC says: “The contract has to include an access date. This is a date that the contractor can get access to the site to start the work – that has been set as September 14.

“This is a critical contractual obligation by the council as the contractor will mobilise all the necessary resources to start the works from that date.  If access to the site is not available due to a delay in the issue of the MMO licence, then the contractor could claim an extension of time under the contract, which could cost the council up to £11k a week.

“The MMO has now indicated that it believes the works need to be screened for an environmental impact assessment, requiring a further 8 weeks. As this is a like for like replacement, the council does not believe that this is necessary and has sought external legal advice. An additional eight week delay will put the start of construction back to November.”

Thanet council says an eight weeks delay will lead to possible extra costs due to possibly having to renegotiate the contract and could even cost ‘millions’ if the supplier walks away and the Brett’s berth has to be decommissioned.

Ramsgate Port

The information to councillors says: “This will require more negotiation with the preferred supplier, which could result in renegotiation of contract terms, including additional cost, moving the access date into 2021.

“That in turn will require the existing berth to be decommissioned, resulting in potential contract default with Brett and significant cost to the council.

“In the worst case, the preferred supplier could walk away.  This would result in Brett having no berth and having to transport aggregate to the site via lorries and the council having to go through a new procurement process. Both of these eventualities would add significant risk and cost, estimated in the millions of pounds.”

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

A budget of £887,000 has been set aside for the Port of Ramsgate berth 4/5 replacement.

County councillor Karen Constantine says she is concerned that the ‘current’ Environmental Impact Assessment for the port might not even exist. She said: “I’m concerned that despite spending more than 12 months formally asking KCC for sight of the Environmental Impact Assessment it hasn’t been forthcoming. I wonder if it actually exists. Whilst I welcome the opportunity to plan ahead and save tax payers money, we must ensure the right permissions and environment safeguards are in place. Before committing any further monies.

“Right now I want a copper bottom guarantee that our important local marine environment isn’t in any jeopardy, before any further expansion is carried out. That means an EIA must be carried out.”


  1. Red tape or incompetence . 1. How can a contractor who does not have an agreed signed contract use that unsigned contract to bill TDC £11.000 per week for the delay of signing the contract.
    2. Why did TDC not use the berths that they already had in the harbour that had a higher load capacity.
    3. Are the berths being installed for the sole benefit of Brett, if so what if anything are Brett contributing towards the cost.
    4. Why did TDC legal bods allowed TDC to sign an agreement that could cost the council £11,000 per week or potentially a lot more.?

  2. Meanwhile, a fine dusting of aggregate settles on our houses every day and our beautiful harbour is blighted by ruddy great big pontoons of no use to any resident, nor attractive to tourists.

    Why are we so routinely let down in Ramsgate? Of what benefit or help is this terrible plan beneficial to our town?

    I despair. Will TDC only stop when Ramsgate is ruined and bankrupt?

    • I don’t see any problem with having Brett’s on the port so long as they conform to environmental regulations.
      Has it been proved, and if so how?, that the local atmosphere is being polluted by this work? If so, then of course the council should ensure that the company tightens up their work practices.

      Surely the port is an ideal place for industry. Not all industry is heavy industry and there is plenty of room for light industry.

    • Are you seriously suggesting that any “fine dusting of aggregate” is the responsibility of Bretts? Has it not occurred to you that Ramsgate is at the seaside; there is a more than 1km long beach; that the beach is covered with about 1 billion tonnes of sand? Have you not noticed that even if Bretts is a source for wind blown dust, mostly the wind blows from the SW, so would send the dust out to sea?

  3. Who signed a contract where the costs are more than the rent being charged, basically subsidizing Bretts with taxpayers money.

  4. TDC shouldn’t promise things they cannot do. Why allow a company to commence in the port without the right equipment in place? If they knew the pontoons needed replacing within a few years, why wasn’t this prepared for? If Bretts now want a bigger pontoon than what was supplied then why should TDC go to the expense of purchasing it?, why shouldn’t they do that themselves? Will they pay a higher rent for the bigger pontoon? So many questions to be answered before anything makes sense.

  5. The biggest pile here is that of TDC bulldust – in the absence of a signed contract, there can be no liability or need for compensation. Also, what isn’t made clear is that the MMO requirement is nothing new, and had TDC followed due procedure (first time for everything…), then there would have been no delay necessary. Unless, of course, the EIA exposes the huge list of environmental and planning breaches, along with the many other corners TDC have cut historically, and shows that this filthy liability is NOT in an appropriate location. The lid’s peeling on a huge barrel of worms. At last.

  6. TDC was told by some councillors a year ago that they would need an MMO licence. It was also confirmed at full council last year that Brett never asked for the berth to be replaced. All that is happening is that some councillors are trying to uphold the law. It was confirmed at a full council meeting last year that Brett had not asked for a replacement berth. TDC are treating us like cattle and every decision is a stampede so that they don’t have to follow due process. A former stampede is the £1.8 million spent on the RoRo ferry berth under emergency powers and without a tendering process.

  7. What’s the point of having a License from MMO. A MMO licence did not stop the gangway falling when the Sally Line was operating or help the victims or their families, where were the MMO then the victims were never compensated

  8. Those who work at TDC tell me about the Kafka-esque hoops they have to jump through to buy anything, even with really low values.

    Funny how their senior team always want to navigate their way around the procurement red tape they want and expect their staff to follow.

  9. I agree that, in a perfect world, Brett Aggregates should pay for their own berthing facilities and not expect the Thanet ratepayers to supply them free of charge.
    But the reality is that we, the local residents , are desperate for jobs and trade, and so we pay out to entice companies to stay in Thanet or move here. WE subsidise THEM. And we are expected to be grateful as we struggle to pay our bills while the owners of the firms we are paying are laughing all the way to the Bank(which they probably have shares in as ,we, the taxpayers, bailed the Banks out as well!)
    If the idea of having a “Freeport” in Ramsgate takes off, we can expect more of this kind of subsidy to wealthy firms. Freeports are just a huge version of the Brett Aggregates tax-payer subsidy. ALL the firms in Freeports get tax breaks, long periods of paying no Community Charges,relaxation of safety rules etc.
    So , once again, WE end up paying bribes to THEM to come and pay us peanuts in wages. And THEY will never be satisfied. They will “never let a good crisis go to waste” and , at the slightest hint of economic problems, they will be onto the government after yet more bail outs and will be chasing TDC for more financial help or else they will close and leave!! Forget democracy! Just get used to crawling to big business. You’ll get used to it in the end and you won’t feel a thing. Just remember to blame all the foreigners.Then you will feel much better.

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