Plans to find operator for ferry services from Ramsgate approved by council Cabinet members

Ramsgate Port Photo John Horton

Plans to find an operator to bring ferry services back to Ramsgate Port will move forward after being agreed by Thanet council Cabinet members.

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.

Previously interest has been expressed by ferry operators, EU ports and haulage companies for cross-channel operations but Thanet council did not have the funds for necessary infrastructure works until now.

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 approved an option for a multi-purpose hybrid model offering a concession contract with a lease attached to it for part of the port to be used by a ferry operator while the rest of the site is used for different commercial and training interests.

Agreements with Brett Aggregrates and wind farm operators will remain in place and there will also be negotiations with Brett Aggregates about expanding on 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. It was suggested better terms for the council could be instigated with a new or revised lease for Bretts. A question was also raised over the use for the extra land and whether this would be for gravel washing.

Council officer Louise Askew said engagement with Brett Aggregates was still to take place and due diligence would be carried out.

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

Council chief executive Colin Carmichael and staff will oversee the procurement process and operator contract negotiations with Cabinet members giving final approval.

He said: “The money is available for the first time to make the port work and it would be criminal if we did not take that opportunity.”

Ward councillor Becky Wing and independent councillor Ruth Bailey both asked about costs to the council attached to a ferry operation, such as dredging, staffing, pilot boats and tug assistance. Councillor Tricia Austin said there was concern the plans were now being rushed through just before a local election.

Thanet council, as the port authority would be responsible for maintenance which would be paid for from areas such as port and harbour dues.

Council leader Ash Ashbee said the project was “vitally important” as a “strategically important port for the whole country.”

She added: “When I took over as leader this was always my number one priority, to turn the port around.” She said profit from the venture could then be reinvested into services for the district, adding: “All of our assets have to work for us or they have to go. We have to become more self sufficient. As the years go by it will be more and more necessary for us to do that.”

She said work had been taking place for nearly three years and: “this is not about elections or politics but about the right thing to do.”

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


  1. It’s not a ‘plan’ its a ‘wish’ ! If any ferry operators were interested, they would be the ones approaching the council… a smaller capacity than Dover on a longer route than Dover, there is no demand

    • But there was, before the last ferry company folded.
      Every ferry that moored up disgorged 20 or more trucks, plus a handful of cars and vans.
      The attraction would be a service to Belgian ports, serving Northern Europe, rather than trying to take trade from Dover.

    • Indeed – TDC allowed a debt of £3.4m to accrue – did nothing to collect it or to secure the debt.

      Now TDC has grant monies to bring the port up to an operable standard – in order it can be handed over to a ”third party” for somebody else to either make a profit OR not bear any of the losses !

      Just something else for the taxpayer to subsidise . . .

  2. Groundhog Day-TDC seem determined to waste money by throwing cash at failed projects like this/money burning spongers like Turner over & over.

  3. Has TDC done any research into how many ferries of suitable size to use the proposed berth are

    1) actually in existence
    2) owned by an operator interested in this route
    3) available on the market for an operator that might be interested

    4) actively sought out an operator willing to use the facilities and have carried out due diligence on any prospective operator.

    Utter fantasy to think you could set up a ro-ro facility for £3.5m when all costs are considered , as such how much of the £9.6m is going to be seen as shared costs between a ror-ro facility and the other planned port investment?

    Not that i see any of the plans as unwelcome just that it all seems a bit too optimistic and based on uncosted assumptions and fantasy land dreams. Thanet undoubtedly needs investment in worthwhile projects but can ill afford to have another flop on its books.

    Has there been a final figure on the costs for the new berth and road haulage costs etc and if so how many years is it expected to be needed to break even under the current lease? In the likely event that its cost us a small fortune and will take decades to break even ( taking into account future maintenance etc) , should there not be a thorough investigation and report into how this situation occurred and that such a report be read understood and lessons learnt before we embark on another half baked endeavour.?

  4. If this was viable you would think the cross ferry companies would be knocking on TDC door. Instead TDC are going to go around the world looking for a company.

    Do TDC know that when the port and manston open the thanet way and M2 will become gridlocked !!

  5. With sheerness operating a roll on service. Is there the need or capacity for a 3rd port service

    • What about them?

      This is clearly a ploy to get some people’s hopes up and thereby secure their votes for the election!

      Pie in the sky trickery by a desperate party.

  6. I’ve still got MDL’s number! However, the way the Conservative led Admin and the then ‘dream team’ of MH and GW treated them with contempt it’s unlikely they will now be interested.
    This is what happens when you’ve got small time life insurance salesman and failed banker in charge of a Port!!
    If Mr Carmichael is reading any of this madness my only advice is to sell TDC’s interest in the Port and Marina to a company that has the experts already employed and save the Thanet council tax payer millions.

    • That seem a logical thing to do. Because when you look back . Thanet council are unable to run anything in house. Even down to paying c tax . My partner got a CTStatment some one else was paying into her account. Took 4 months to stop the payments crazy.

  7. When Dover port was clearly over worked, and queues were an everyday occurrence leading into the town, I used to wonder why Ramsgate (and even silted-up Folkestone) didn’t grab the clear opportunity to go back into business as alternative ports for European traffic.
    But has that time passed?
    Dover just has less work now because the UK and the EU are not in the same customs union so trade is declining.
    The only ,lucky, exception to this is the north of Ireland which is ,effectively, in BOTH a customs union with the UK AND a customs union with the EU. The best of both worlds!
    With the current rate of progress, it will soon be cheaper and more efficient to move UK/EU trade through Belfast and Larne than through Dover or Ramsgate!
    Ridiculous? Of course, but I didn’t vote for this!

  8. Folkestone doesn’t have a direct route to a motorway, ferry traffic has to go through the town! My understanding is that Ramsgate port must be dredged regularly, as it silts up fast! I believe thats why it was used for Live Animal Exports, as the operators used an old Russian flat bottom inland ferry!

  9. It may be helpful to understand the attraction of Dover Calais to the haulage industry. The short sea crossing allows ferries to do four return trips in a 24 hour period. This offers competitive rates and a wide choice of sailing times so lorries do not have to wait hours for the next crossing – think of it as a ‘sea bridge’.
    However, effects of Brexit will reduce the volume of trade and the removal of cabotage from international hauliers will also reduce attractiveness of making cross channel journeys so I don’t see that it is a good time for setting up a new venture

  10. Yet another TDC pipe dream. Waste of time and money. No need for it at all unless you need tomatoes quickly.

  11. TDC never learn their lesson do they, would be surprised if you will ever see large ferries here again. What I have said before the sand problem must be sorted as there is thousands of cubic meters of sand waiting at the back of the east pier where there was once deep water, and if we get an easterly gale for a long period it will block the dredged channel to the terminal.

  12. What a load of rubbish….

    This will no doubt end up costing us millions again.

    This will once again take from the area and not give back.

    There a so many thriving seaside towns and resorts that understand being a transport hub is not always the best or sensible answer:

    Stop the madness.

  13. The biggest madness was letting Trans Europa build up a £3.4 million pound debt, strange when yachts were seized and auctioned for non payment of marina dues. Compounded of course by giving the animal exporters £2 million for illegally stopping their trade. Good old TDC you never let us down, disaster follows disaster.

  14. Great idea in principle, really is.
    Amongst other reasons and not the strongest is the unscheduled delays at the existing local ferry port.
    When europe bound hgv’s are parked up on the A20 aka Dover Traffic Assessment Project. TAP.
    Presently two of the Calais HGV route operators have a space sharing arrangement hgv’s can travel on the next ferry departing, which has some good but drivers prefer one operator i was told.
    Ramsgate port would not suffer A20 TAP delays and the companie not in the space share agreement could have a sole use agreement. Maybe tdc could insist foot passengers are allowed, locals can do a day trip’s for their essentials.
    Yes the port can be a viable ro ro + foot passenger business but there are many hurdles to clear first,yes i am on a fee.

  15. Any ideas what to do with the tunnel built to take ferry traffic to London, and vice versa to Ramsgate Harbour? I believe it cost £30 million, and is not open to traffic, at least it wasn’t when I got stopped once on my bike a few years ago by security when I tried to cut through it!

Comments are closed.