Council takes next step in bid to attract cross-channel freight operator to Ramsgate Port

Looking at the future of Ramsgate Port

Thanet council is seeking expressions of interest from commercial port operators to operate a substantial part of the Port of Ramsgate, including two roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) berths.

The move follows a decision made by the council in March to start a procurement exercise aimed at finding an operator to being ferry services back to the port.

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.

Ramsgate Port Photo John Horton

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.

In March councillors were told that 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 facilities.

A report added: “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.”

Ramsgate Port

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 an 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. Agreements with Brett Aggregrates and wind farm operators would remain in place.

The option means 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.

Brett Aggregates at Ramsgate Port

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..

Council leader Rick Everitt said: “The Port of Ramsgate is a major asset for Thanet, with particular significance for the town itself and national importance too. It has huge untapped potential, in terms of employment and training opportunities for local people and the wider development of the district through new investment.

“The Levelling Up Fund award means that we can now forge ahead with the structural changes necessary to attract a cross-channel freight operator which were previously unviable. Our ambition is to establish the Port as a base for supporting green industry.”

Ramsgate Port Photo John Horton

A PIN notice says the council aims to “undertake a procurement process to attract and secure a port operator for two primary roll on/roll off (ro-ro) berths at the Port of Ramsgate and associated port side land by way of a services concession.

“This PIN is not a call for competition and is published with the intention of facilitating engagement with the market prior to the commencement of a procurement process.”

A ‘port narrative’ published last November says: “The objective of reestablishing a cross channel RoRo operation is to create jobs at Ramsgate and ease the significant risks for UK PLC when moving freight to and from the continent.

“A service from Ramsgate will offer an alternative route to the logistics sector and importantly, will create local jobs. A new cross channel service will make the port more sustainable in the long term – for the council and for the district.

“The plan is to allocate 48% of the site for RoRo operations. 22% is already allocated to existing port related businesses, and a further 5% will be retained for shared site access within the port estate.

“This creates potential for the remaining 25% to be released for new maritime related opportunities, including the Green Campus site.  This remaining space at the Port should be used to help support the economic regeneration and growth needed in Ramsgate.”

It adds that Ramsgate provides a significant opportunity within the short sea crossing market to accommodate unaccompanied freight.

Expressions of interest can be submitted until July 7.


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.

Details of £19.8 million Ramsgate ‘Levelling Up’ proposals published by Thanet council

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  1. “council in March to start a procurement exercise”

    Surely that implies the council PAYING someone else for a service, it is the ferry company that wants to procure a service from the council for a port and for the council to benefit !!

  2. Let’s hope (if it happens) they take foot passengers. As a non-driver, I could never use it alone previously!

    • I hope so too, because there could be a good market for day trips now that there are so many more people visiting Thanet, and many others who must be put off using Dover, where all the eggs have been put in one basket, because of delays due to Brexit.

      • Since Brexit, visits to/from Europe have become more difficult because of the border controls now in force. Pre-Brexit, European nationals moving between member states could just wave some sort of photo ID. Now, non-EU visitors have to undergo full passport checks.

        • In theory yes, in practice no. Did you ever try getting in and out of France with just a photo ID post-9/11?

          • I travelled across Europe post 9/11. The only time there was any issue with border controls was returning to the UK. Most other places you only knew you were in another country was because the type of street lamp or the road surface changed.

  3. Seeing as they have allowed a caravan park to setup on the port land, I expect operators will be rushing into talks.
    On TDC’s passed record it will take about 5 years to re-site the caravan’s probably down at the old hover port . So don’t hold your breath or plan any holidays yet 😀

    • I doubt that the small area of the port currently set aside for the travellers will impact on any plans for a ro-ro ferry.

      • Have you seen the state of it Andrew, all the hardcore that they have just dumped there. If not go and take a look! The area they have is also not a small part of it, it is a substantial part right next to the terminal.

        What sort of operators will want to see a load of travellers in the area? Like it or not trouble always follows them.

        • “They have just dumped there”
          You have evidence that the residents on the port dumped that there?
          There seems to be a suggestion that others have been coming in flytipping there knowing that the residents will be blamed by the usual type of people.
          The port residents have been there over 2 years and have caused less problems that a crowd during the weekends.
          As this is a ethnic minority group recognised as a race under the Race Relations and Equality Act, your comments are racist stereotyping.
          UKIP have gone.

          • Stop talking absolute rubbish Red John. They have dumped it there nobody else! there is NO suggestion that other people have gone there and fly tipped. Seriously stop making stuff up, it’s embarrassing.

            Bottom line is, they dumped all the rubbish from clearance jobs they have taken cash in hand for on that site. The site is a disgrace and and eyesore and the people there contribute nothing to society, they only take.

            Stop playing the racist card with travellers, they are not a race they are a bunch of people who think the rules that everyone else lives by don’t apply to them.

            They always have an excuse, I take you are one of them! But the FACT remains that trouble and crime and shoddy jobs are always where they are, simple as that!

    • And, since Brexit, it’s difficult to get out, and even mote difficult to get in.
      The travel restrictions imposed by Brexit are the reason that Ashford and Ebbsfleet stations no longer have Eurostar stopping at them.

  4. Level up.. Tdc need to level up their crime infested gull poop on the port
    Secret deal with Transeuropa
    Debt to close port.. All by rick and his band of secret squirrels.. A debt they bloody made

  5. Note that Bretts are going to be doubling their site operations from the Port.

    Good to see local Labour are following the Conservatives in wrecking the local environment.

  6. lets hope it happens ,but no doubt some idiots will be trying to stop local progress as usual

    • It failed before due to lack of demand, the same as all the attempts at Manston! Ramsgate has reached the same state as Folkestone did over 30 years ago, it could not attract freight! They even tried a catamaran known locally as the Vomit Commit, but the main problem was freight could not get onto the motorway without going through the town, which caused traffic jambs! The same would apply here, how can freight get onto a motorway? It can’t easily, can it?

  7. I have 3 questions.
    1. Have T.D.C. got the 3.4 million berthing fees back fro 2013, if not, who paid for them ?
    2. Have T.D.C still got the 9.62 million set aside to improve the port. If not, where is it ?
    3.Will the council tax payers be responsible for any unpaid debts on the port if the “new” operator leaves.
    I cant recall the council tax payers benefiting from the previous users of the port.
    I wonder if the past of present councillors would care to comment ?

    • “I cant recall the council tax payers benefiting from the previous users of the port.”

      That’s your fault it you choose to stay at home. Many people DID benefit, ditto the airport and before that the Hoverport.

      • What benefits? Free double glazing if you lived by the hoverport. The sally Line club. But I cant remember anything from the Airport. There were no council tax rebates that I can recall, so ALL the people could benefit.

      • Well ***** Manston failed 4 times because of lack of demand! I did use it once and the aircraft was only one third full, and the price was cheaper had I taken a train to Gatwick! At least at Gatwick you could get a half decent meal, before flying off, at Manston you had take your own tea bag! I used to spend 4 o 5 months in Spain during the winter after I retired, renting only, I never bought thank God. But I couldn’t get a flight back to Manston as the company only had 4 planes, and one of them was usually in for a service! When that went bust it stranded hundreds of people in various countries, and it took weeks to get them home! I used to bike to Manston just to check on the car park, which was full of parked cars, until there was just one left, I often wondered who the owner was!

  8. Seems to me that T.D.C are throwing more of the rate payer money into another lost cause need to spend more tidying up the town

    • Had you read the piece, you would have noticed this bit ..”In 2021, Thanet council secured £19.8m for Ramsgate as part of the Government’s Levelling Up Funding (LUF). ”
      So, no ratepayers’ (whatever they are) money involved.

  9. TDC should contact Port of Dover and become part of their group, Ramsgate is a perfect ferry port that can alleviate the pressure Dover comes under every year, it would cancel Operation Brock, free up Dover’s roads and residents can go about their business freely.
    It is a no Brainer

    • Why would any ferry company want to operate from a site that has twice the crossing time, get in half as many crossings in a day and have to operate smaller ships with less capacity?

      Why would Ramsgate not suffer from the same issues that Dover has?

  10. Waste of time and money, the ships needed now in 2023 are to big for the port, give up on the idea and spend the money on a tourist themed attraction and I don’t mean fun fare or arcades.

  11. Was the proposal of a Maritime village ever seriously discussed? That would have brought a lot of employment, tourism, respect of the environment etc… etc…? A much more realistic prospect than an elusive ferry port when ferries are increasing in size and thus making it difficult to use Ramsgate Port, even with alterations. Not really a viable competitor to Dover Port. I’m really wondering if people in local government are doing proper due diligence… If so, I would be very keen to read the official report and a comparison with a Maritime village proposal.

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