Plans to bring ferry services back to Ramsgate Port to be discussed by Thanet council Cabinet members

Looking at the future of Ramsgate Port

Proposals to find an operator to bring ferry services back to Ramsgate Port will be discussed by Thanet council Cabinet members next month.

The last ferry to operate from Ramsgate was TransEuropa Ferries which went bankrupt in 2013 and left Thanet council with £3.4 million in unpaid berthing fees.

Since then a succession of ‘proposals’ have been mooted but not amounted to anything, including the ferryless ferry firm Seaborne Freight that was awarded a £13.8million government contract in December 2018 for extra ‘Brexit-resilience’ crossings but in 2020 went into liquidation owing almost £2 million.

In 2021, Thanet council secured £19.8m for Ramsgate as part of the Government’s Levelling Up Funding (LUF). Some £9.62m of this is set aside to improve the port and includes plans for a ‘Green Port’ projected to create 800 jobs, a Green Hub training centre for apprenticeships and training, hospitality and fishing fleet proposals as well as improvements to the berths, mooring spine and check-in/border facilities.

A total of £3.5 million is earmarked for port infrastructure.

Port of Ramsgate Photo John Horton

A report to Cabinet members says over recent years interest has been expressed by ferry operators, EU ports and haulage companies for cross-channel operations at Ramsgate but this has been hampered by the need to pay for improved facilties.

The report adds: “Previously, Ramsgate lost out on ro-ro opportunities because private sector owned ports were able to invest in the required infrastructure, whilst the council was not in a position to do so.

“The challenge of a lack of capital funding is now resolved by the Levelling Up Fund grant award. Updating key port infrastructure at Ramsgate will constitute a step change in the attractiveness of Ramsgate to host a new cross channel service and will unlock new opportunities with potential operators.”

A report completed for the council by consultants Infrata says there is a demand for cross channel ferry freight services, with limited opportunities for expansion in other ports, meaning Ramsgate has a significant opportunity to take a share of the increase in cargo in the future.

Cabinet members are recommended to approve an option for a multi-purpose hybrid model offering a concession contract with a lease attached to it. Agreements with Brett Aggregrates and wind farm operators would remain in place.

The option would mean the council retaining the management of part of the Port, such as non-ro-ro traffic, with ro-ro cargo and traffic managed by a third party.

It would allow existing agreements with long term leaseholders to be retained  and develop investment opportunities following the completion of the Green Campus project.

Brett Aggregates at Ramsgate Port

Negotiations would also be carried out with Brett Aggregates which wants to increase its operations with a further two acres of land. The existing aggregates site occupies two acres of land and is served by berth 4/5, which was replaced in 2022.

The site incorporates a concrete batching plant, which is served by some of the aggregates brought to the site via sea. Cement is brought to the site via road tanker and is stored in two silos. The concrete plant serves the local building industry in East Kent.

Cllr Ash Ashbee, Leader of Thanet District Council commented: “Thanet District Council has an exciting window to turn around the fortunes at the Port of Ramsgate, and realise the opportunities the commercial port provides. This is a massive opportunity for the district. The port is a national asset and we have a responsibility to ensure that we utilise it to its full potential.

“It is currently underutilised and in the last decade the landscape has shifted, with changes in the short sea ferry market following the UK’s exit from the EU, as well as increases in fuel and the cost of living crisis.

“One of the biggest hurdles has been the need for improvement works to the infrastructure, to be able to deliver a modern cross channel freight service. The Levelling Up Fund award now means we can undertake the changes needed to unlock new opportunities and propose a competitive process to attract an operator.

“Ultimately, in addition to any potential new crossing or operational model, as our bid for the Levelling Up Fund identified, we must give attention to continuing to ‘diversify our offer’. Since becoming Leader, I prioritised addressing the port’s operational capabilities and this proposal represents the result of that focus.

“We need to look at how we can do more within the available space, to make it more successful. The report that we’ll consider as a Cabinet provides a range of options for our review.”

Port of Ramsgate Photo TDC

If agreed a timeline for the project would include going out to tender for bids from operators in late April, creating a bidder shortlist by June and awarding the contract for operations in September.

Shadow council leader Cllr Rick Everitt said: “The levelling-up bid for Ramsgate was championed and put together under the Labour administration which ran the council from 2019-2021. Returning the port to full operational status in order to be able to take advantage of the kind of approaches that I know the council received in that period was a key element of the bid that our administration put together.

“There is, understandably, a level of public scepticism about demand because of the failure of TransEuropa and the various ghost operators who have been touted since, including by central government. However, I think most people in Ramsgate would be happy to see the port operating fully again, especially if that is providing jobs, skills training and income to the district.

“The £3.5m for this element of the levelling-up award can only be spent on the project for which it was awarded. A third party operator is only going to get involved if they believe that demand for the ro-ro operation exists and it will then be their risk, not the council’s, that it doesn’t materialise.

“We will be studying the detail of the proposal and we certainly believe that final decisions should be made in public by elected councillors, not officers, so we will be pressing on that point. But we believe this is an exciting opportunity for Ramsgate and Thanet, and that the council should seize it.”

The Port of Ramsgate was opened in 1981 with Sally Line operating services between Ramsgate and Dunkerque. Between 1993 and 1998 there was also a service to Ostend but this was moved to Dover and the Sally ceased operations in 1998 with the ending of duty free concessions.

TransEuropa Ferries was brought in but went bankrupt in 2013.

Between 2000 to 2011 the port made surpluses ranging between £50,000 to £850,000 per annum, but from 2012 onwards substantial losses have been recorded amounting to more than £25m.

Ramsgate Port

In 2019 a report on the future of the port was carried out by consultant WSP covering four specific areas of commercial, residential, leisure and mixed use. The report suggested uses including reviving the hotel and conference centre plan for the Smack Boys Home building and creating industrial zones, waterfront homes, retail and themed leisure facilities.

The study looked at ideas including a hotel and conference centre, berthing for small cruise ships, waterfront homes and the possibility of a maritime village.

WSP also advised retaining commercial port functions so “ro-ro operations can be accommodated on a significantly condensed footprint compared to current operations.” A single berth was suggested.

Ramsgate Port

Thanet council says there have also been a number of proposals and pitches ranging from a housing development, removal of existing commercial uses, proposals for a tall ship to be based in the Port, commercial fishing facilities, amongst others, but that these do not link back to the Local Plan.

Port Narrative first published in November 2022 sets out in more detail port plans including the Green Campus.

7 port ‘proposals’ that never got out of the starting blocks

October 2012

Euroferries announced it would be operating a 102m trimaran high speed service from Ramsgate by 2013.


Euroferries again announced it would be launching a  Ramsgate to Boulogne service. It had also approached Thanet District Council back in 2009.  No service emerged.

Thanet council issued a statement to say: “Thanet District Council can confirm that there is no agreement with Euroferries Express ltd. to facilitate a cross-channel ferry service between Ramsgate and Boulogne.”

August 2014

Thanet council advised that talks were underway with potential ferry operators with names touted including DFDS.

September 2015

Ferry expert Bill Moses said he planned to relaunch ferry services at the port

His plans were for an operator to carry up to 500,000 passengers by its second year of operation at Ramsgate.

November 2016

Ramsgate Port

It was revealed that Thanet council had failed in a bid to get Government funding of £4.17million, to be matched with £2million from the authority, to carry out plans which could double lorry capacity at the port to one million vehicles a year.

A three phase expansion was planned.

The first phase was to improve the port’s handling capacity, particularly for unaccompanied freight vehicles, with a double deck ro-ro berth.

The second phase was the development of an on-port new alongside quay for the existing aggregates cargo and bulk cargo expansion and secondly an off-site freight logistics hub at Manston Business Park.

A third phase of seaward port expansion would have been dependent on demand.

April 2017

The  shipping expert taken on by Thanet council said the authority could buy its own ferry to run cross-Channel services from Ramsgate.

Robert Hardy, of Paradox Consulting, was one of the Ramsgate representatives who attended the industry Multimodal expo in Birmingham.

Talking to Shipping TV Mr Hardy said: “We have got to write a model as though we are starting our own ferry company. In fact I asked the question when I was brought in why don’t we buy the ferry, why are we relying on someone else to share our view?”

Thanet council later issued a statement to say: “The Port does not intend to either purchase or operate ships ourselves.”

August 2017

A tweet emerged ‘revealing’ Thanet council discussions with a Polish ferry company about bringing services to Ramsgate Port.

The council’s then-consultant Robert Hardy was believed to have been in talks with Polferries.


The saga of Seaborne Ferries begins when the company entered negotiations with Thanet council over a proposed service in 2017. A start date of March 2018 came – and went- with not a ferry in sight.

It followed an announcement by former Ostend mayor Johan Vande Lanotte in October 2017 that a ‘basic agreement’ had been made for the ferry line.

In August 2018 Seaborne Freight said  it was aiming to begin sailings at the end of the year – and  launched a website advertising the route.

During the Christmas period of that year news emerged that Seaborne Freight had been awarded a government contract worth £13.8million to provide extra ferry capacity to UK ports in the event of a no deal Brexit– despite having no ferries and no track record.

By January 2019 Britain and Ireland’s largest union, Unite, called for then transport secretary Chris Grayling to resign in the wake of the ‘no-deal Brexit’ ferry service contracts.

The £107 million deal with three firms, including Seaborne Freight, was slammed for ignoring the role of Eurotunnel. At the end of the month a Parliament select committee questioned the legality of the government contract awards to the three ferry companies, particularly Seaborne Freight.

In February 2019 the government contract with Seaborne was terminated. The Department for Transport said the agreement has been axed as Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements and the firm’s backer Arklow Shipping has pulled out of the deal.

By September 2020 Seaborne lodged a resolution to wind up with Companies House and a document to say voluntary liquidator Quantuma had been appointed.

According to the documents the firm had assets of around £39,000 in computer equipment, furniture and cash.

But it owed almost £2million, made up of £1.2m to trade and expense creditors, a £400,000 loan, £323,000 in directors loans and a £100 corporation tax bill to HMRC.

Ferryless ferry company Seaborne Freight goes into voluntary liquidation

8 brilliant things remembered from Sally Line’s Ramsgate ferry service

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    • The council have a obligation to home homeless people which the ‘residends’are.

      So presumably the council has plans to accommodate them elsewhere.

    • What over demand problems? DFDS are reducing the number of ships on their Calais service and are looking I to a shared timetable with P&O

    • Have you ever been to Dover? It’s huge and doesn’t have demand problems. And to anyone that thinks that Ramsgate is a good location of the port, look at a marine map and note the Goodwin Sands. Doesn’t half get in the way of a Channel crossing.

  1. More crystal ball gazing. Not even failing Grayling MP could find an operator.

    Is this to justify the new berth and up the Tories chances in the local elections?

    Do Brett’s want to expand its operation to cover the whole of east Kent in concrete?

    The Port is continuing to lose millions of Council Tax payers money yet the Tories won’t even employ street cleaners/

    This has to be one of the most incompetent boroughs in the UK/

    Has anyone heard of Dover?

    • Hey Clare

      Yeah dover near me I got out of Thanet.
      That port has over £30m debt
      Handout of £19m to level up.. No that money is ours and tories need to be sacked over debts.. Who calling in bailiffs they do if tax aint paid or fix boilers which is a criminal offence swept up under the carpet

    • Why isn’t it viable ? There’s a road infrastructure leading to the port for any.passenger vehicles to use
      Also dredge the harbour area for the Ferry to use and that helps get this idea afloat .
      Btw.Sorry for the unintended pun . Lol

  2. What an ideal time to launch this. No matter it is weeks before LOCAL ELECTIONS!!
    For the sake of Thanet lets hope there is a SMIGIN of truth?

  3. It is unfortunate that Ramsgate port is not big enough or deep enough to take commercially viable roro ferries, that is the main reason that no operator has been found since the last went bust owing TDC millions in berthing fees.
    Other uses for the port have been outlined and these should be actively pursued rather than wasting any of the leveling up funding on a ferry pipe dream.

  4. How about our councillors giving officers instructions not to propose or appoint any new staff for the scheme until the new ferry contract is signed and proven viable.

    Any scheme labelled ”Green” must be treated as suspect and any involvement of TDC officers as incompetent.

  5. Hopefully TDC will find an operator, now Duty free is back between here and France / Belgium, a service, especially the day trip market could be profitable on the back of freight services.

    • Is that right Dave? My niece had her car crushed about 25 years for Duty Free fag smuggling, which until then was quite profitable for a single mum!

  6. Unfortunately this is yet another pie in the sky and cynical me wonders if May elections are once again focussing Tory minds on losing their seats.
    1. Port is too small
    2. Tory maintenance in non-existent ie no dredging is happening
    3 Ro-Ro ferries are too long for the port

      • They got their fingers burnt with ferries all the eggs in one basket.They think it is Dover harbour down there,it is a silting mud hole that wants constant dredging,plus since the terminal has been built there is a constant cost of removing sand if they took notice of what I have said in the past they should build a breakwater to stop Ramsgate’s sands being lost at huge cost to residents the shingle banks are moving west as well.the levelling up fund should make this a priority.

      • You’re a bit behind the times. The longest ferries that can safely use the port are 180m LOA. Modern ferries are now up to 230m.

  7. 1. Port is not to small. It was used in the past by haulage companies and passengers.
    2. It was also in operation when Labour had maintenance over the port.
    3. Ro Ro ferries are not one standard length.
    I think you need to provide more evidence to consolidate your comments as these dont seem correct. Maybe you thoughts on Torys losing seats are, but that is for the electorate to decide.

  8. Well they will need somewhere to berth those electric ferries that will serve manston.
    Actually it made a loss before 2011 because Transeuropa was such a ratbag outfit.
    Instead of looking forward we get old schemes dredged up as electoral morsels to tempt a credulous voting public.where is purdah when you want it.
    I hope these nincompoops do get re-elected it will serve them right.

  9. A maritime village would have brought so many more jobs and promoted tourism… But that’s just me saying!…

    • I don’t think the port is at all a suitable place for housing. Most “maritime villages” seem to be very expensive. But for those who like the idea of a “maritime village”, perhaps council housing could be built on part of the port and green industry put on the rest of it.

      It is not Brett Aggregates which wants to “concrete over Thanet”but private developers. The Tory government is very much to blame for this and for countless other ways in which conditions in Britain have deteriorated.

  10. Pointless exercise, the port could be developed into a tourist themed village, shops , cafes, restaurants, food Hal’s , arty fatty stuff, that will make money for the area not fine filled vessels and lorries. They belong at Manston,

    • Abc

      And how does this tourist themed village work with a cargo plane at 500 feet or lower above it every 15 minute ?

  11. This is blatant tory electioneering.

    Other options would be sensible but who would live in a harbour location ruined by aviation noise?

    Thanet District Council is so toe curlingly embarrassing.

    Let me predict the outcome will be a no it won’t work. Then again, when have expert opinions ever mattered to TDC? 17 reports say Manston isn’t viable. All ignored.

    Oh and didn’t Grant Thornton also dress them down for failing to take into account expert advice on the endless shambles of employment cases.

  12. Ok. So most of the comments from, who I presume are local residents, are anti port. So with all the land there it must be a prime place for travellers caravans, with the council providing proper facilities for them, so they can be registered and pay some kind of council tax, or be ‘moved on ‘ or are all the no port objectors going to object to that. Also Mr X please tell me how can a plane be “500 feet or lower” above the port every 15 minutes ?? ( Are you sure ). Maybe it lands in your garden as there is no working airport in the vicinity at the moment.

  13. The DCO cargo volumes put a cargo plane coming in to land over the harbour at approx 500 feet. Screeching across Ramsgate and approx 200 feet by Nethercourt.

    One plane every 15 mins is the plan.


    • So it’s only a plan. Nothing has been put in writing then. I think you, and Mr X might be presuming this might happen, or do you have proof the airport WILL open and there will be flights every 15 minutes,( why have the residents not been told ) which I presume, as you have not clarified, will be day and night.

      • Paul, what rock have you been hiding under? To make Manston viable it would need to have ATMs at least every 15 minutes. No serious investor is going to sink £500m into an airfield if they aren’t going to get the return on investment.
        But to be honest it’s never going to work. A marina village dedicated to tourism would create jobs and provide a pull factor into the town as well as offering more activities for residents.

      • Paul

        I was being sarcastic !

        There will be no airport for lots of reasons both geographically and infrastructure wise.

        It just makes me laugh how people think a nice retail park with a plane every 15 minutes would be a good relaxing place to visit.

  14. I thought this article was a cut above the usual fluff on (any) subject. With facts and figures and timeline.
    We would love ferries to be brought back to the port.
    I’m sorry that the enthusiasm for the fated manston revival is not replicated in this discussion. We were some of the unfortunates who experienced the hideous noise of planes skimming our roof tops, waking us up and scaring us rigid.
    The port is such a great opportunity. We are looking forward to it being developed to it’s full capacity. It would be lovely to be linked again directly with Europe.

  15. Residents are not obliged to be told?

    It’s in the plan.

    And at the public hearings.

    Of course there is no proof it will happen but they’ve had permission for the DCO twice.

    Not sure what your point is?

  16. People say both manston and the harbour have good infrastructure. That clearly is not the case.

    A single lane out of ramsgate to a duel carriageway to a two lane motorway is not good infrastructure.

    Also now coming out of ramsgate you will have people from the minster end using lord of the manor roundabout to do u turns to get to the new station. Same for people from ramsgate using sevenscore roundabout to do u turns. That stretch of road and roundabouts are going to be become very busy. Than add on the harbour traffic !!

    Dover goes straight onto the dual carriageway to motorway.

    Thanet has poor infrastructure for large import export businesses.

    No rail freight hub no decent motorways.

  17. Now that the Tories are telling us to eat turnips rather than all this foreign stuff like tomatoes won’t that reduce the amount trade across the channel?

  18. Doesn’t all this petty squabbling sound familiar 60 years ago it was get rid of Ramsgate illuminations which helped kill of tourism, then complaints about the factories that appeared at Westwood, moaners got rid of them so unemployment rocketed. Fortunately I was away from Thanet until 10 years ago so I missed out on the decline of Cliftonville caused by Tony Blair’s idiotic open door immigration policy but today has the same moan, moan, whinge merchants continuous negativity to everything that might improve prospects for the region – stop Manston reopening, rubbish the high speed rail link. Now we hear from the denigration of plans to reopen a ferry service and make the harbour a prosperous facility for the town.

    Are all natives of Thanet born without brains? If so perhaps our no no merchants should campaign to close Chatham House an St.Lawrence College as well.

    • Haygordon

      What are you banging on about !!

      Think you will find it was Thatcher and her get on ur bike caused cliftonville to decline. The hoteliers with their dole by the sea campaign and the influx of scousers. That start the decline in cliftonville. True thanet is a tory stronghold so this is what the locals want

      The factories were closing that’s to Thatcher hatred of working classes and ger love affair with bankers and yuppies.

      As for manston and the port. Its simple its poor location that’s the problem and lack of infrastructure. It’s not economical to operate from thanet.

      If it was economic to operate from the bottom corners of England it would make sence that landsend was a booming airport and port.

      Theres a very simple reason the cargo hubs are in the Midlands, they can go north, south, east and west. Thanet you can only go west for at least 60 miles lol.

      If any airport in this area is needed just upgrade southend it’s about 40 mile away and the right side on the M25.

      I would say the locals without brains are the ones who support the struck off solicitor, who believes big business are going to invest 500 million in him lol. At an airport with poor infrastructure and location. But ha ho keep believing

      Not sure why you think locals want the grammar schools closing.

  19. Bring on the port and airport, in case you wondered I am in Nethercourt on the flight path, lets get the ports done!!

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