Hope for return of Ramsgate Port ferry services as local council seeks operator
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After securing £19.8m as part of the Government’s Levelling Up Funding, Thanet council Cabinet members have approved a multi-purpose hybrid model for Ramsgate Port, offering a concession contract with a lease attached to it for a ferry operator. The rest of the site is to be used for different commercial and training interests, reports The Isle of Thanet News.
Ramsgate Port is set to welcome ferry services back after Thanet council approved a multi-purpose hybrid model for the port. The move comes after the council secured £19.8m as part of the Government’s Levelling Up Funding (LUF) in 2021, writes The Isle of Thanet News.
Of this amount, £9.62m is earmarked for port improvements, including plans for a ‘Green Port’ that is projected to create 800 jobs, a Green Hub training centre for apprenticeships and training, hospitality and fishing fleet proposals, and improvements to the berths, mooring spine, and check-in/border facilities.
The approval of the multi-purpose hybrid model offers a concession contract with a lease attached to it for a ferry operator while the rest of the site is used for different commercial and training interests. The option means that 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.
Ramsgate Port’s last ferry service operator, TransEuropa Ferries, went bankrupt in 2013, leaving Thanet council with £3.4m in unpaid berthing fees, the article adds. Since then, several proposals have been put forward, including Seaborne Freight, which was awarded a £13.8m government contract in December 2018 for extra ‘Brexit-resilience’ crossings but went into liquidation in 2020 owing almost £2m.
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. Ramsgate has a significant opportunity to take a share of the increase in cargo in the future, and previously interest has been expressed by ferry operators, EU ports, and haulage companies for cross-channel operations. However, the council did not have the funds for necessary infrastructure works until the LUF funding became available, The Isle of Thanet News adds.
Council leader Ash Ashbee told the news site the project was “vitally important” as a “strategically important port for the whole country.” She added that the profit from the venture could then be reinvested into services for the district, saying:
“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.”
According to the report, 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. The council’s approval of the multi-purpose hybrid model marks a significant milestone in Ramsgate Port’s journey towards restoring ferry services, and residents and businesses in the area are eagerly anticipating the benefits that the port’s revival is expected to bring.
Photo credits @ Bill Boaden and licensed for reuse under CC BY-SA 2.0