Thanet council is understood to be in discussions with a Polish ferry company about bringing services to Ramsgate Port.
The council’s consultant Robert Hardy, who was taken on in April, is believed to have been in talks with Polferries.
The company is the largest Polish ferry operator. It was established in 1976 as a state-owned shipping company. Under the operating name Polferries, it runs ferry routes across the Baltic Sea between Poland and Scandinavia.
— Marian Krotoszyński (@krotoszynski1) July 29, 2017
The tweet translates as talks taking place in Kołobrzeg, the headquarters of Polferries.
Robert Hardy, of Paradox Consulting, is at the head of Thanet council’s bid to return industry to Ramsgate Port. He suggested the authority could buy its own ferry when talking to Shipping TV from a multimodal event earlier this year.
TDC says Ramsgate is the second closest UK port to the continent with capacity to handle up to 500,000 road goods vehicles per annum. The authority says the port is ideally situated to provide multimodal transport solutions that will link directly with France and Belgium and also connect with existing rail and sea networks both in the UK and across Europe and the Baltic.
The port has been dormant, apart from a temporary deal with car shipper GEFCO, since TransEuropa Ferries filed for bankruptcy in April 2013.
Thanet council was left with an unpaid debt of £3.4 million accrued by the ferry firm in port fees.
No ferry service has operated from the port since that date despite councillors saying efforts were being made to find a new operator and other economic opportunities were being examined.
Council leader Chris Wells said:“Over the last two years, Thanet District Council has been working on re-establishing ferry services at the Port of Ramsgate. This has included investment in dredging and repairs of the Ro-Ro berths to ensure we are ready for business.
“ The team, which includes a consultant with over 30 years’ experience of the cross channel market, has been in discussions with several interested parties, both in the UK and on the continent, to provide a long term sustainable solution and to relieve some of the traffic issues approaching the Port of Dover.”
The Port picture
In 2014 Thanet council said the end of the ferry service meant the end of the biggest income generator at Ramsgate Port.
Reported talks in 2015 with “a credible potential RoRo operator” were also fruitless.
In January 2016, a deal was signed between Thanet council and transport and logistics company GEFCO UK Ltd for the use of the Ro-Ro (roll on – roll off) berths and storage for imported cars prior to distribution around the UK.
The deal came to an end in January of this year.
Annual accounts by Thanet council between 2010- 2016 showed the port had lost £7.6 million in five years – excluding £5million in live export compensation and the £3.4million for bankrupt TransEuropa Ferries unpaid fees and charges.
Thanet council said the money lost in real terms was £2.6million but annual audit papers show £7.6million due to ” strict accounting rules.”
The draft audit for 2016-17 shows a loss of another £2.2million.