Reports suggesting the Government is planning to expand the port of Ramsgate to bypass the Dover-Calais congestion in the event of a no-deal Brexit have been branded “too little, too late” by the Road Haulage Association.
According to a report in the FT, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has earmarked up to £200 million to redevelop the port of Ramsgate as well as back-up plans for increased freight traffic — and lorry parking space — at the nearby port of Sheerness.
However, the port is currently unable to accommodate large vessels and would need dredging, the RHA said.
Commenting on the plans, RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said: "“This planning to upgrade Ramsgate port operations has come too late to be effective if there is a no-deal Brexit. The port needs dredging – ferries need to be procured and proper crossing routes established.”
The RHA says the proposed service will require larger trucks which in turn will require a deeper draft for vessels. Ramsgate is not used to dealing with HGV ferry traffic, it added.
Burnett added: “Contingency planning of this type should have been done two years ago – not just 136 days to Brexit. It’s completely impractical to see a shift of traffic from Dover to Ramsgate in this timescale – it takes time to launch new services and time to recruit and train new staff.”
Ramsgate is the second closest UK port to the continent and one the largest municipally-owned commercial ports in the UK. Thanet District Council (TDC) said it shared information regarding the port's capability to support the government, but was not involved in any discussions.
The authority is currently in talks with potential operator Seaborne Freight to establish a freight operation between Ramsgate and Ostend.
A TDC statement said: "The council has been keen to re-establish a ferry service since before the vote to leave the EU.
"We recognise that Ramsgate could play a role in supporting post-Brexit resilience by offering an alternative route from some cross-Channel traffic, to ensure at least some movement of goods should there be significant delays in Dover.
"As part of this the council has reviewed the capability of the Port of Ramsgate to provide capacity to support the Brexit position which, with an investment of £26 million, includes the potential for up to 24 sailings a day which would create capacity to divert 3,360 lorry movements per day from Operation Brock from the M20 and M26 significantly reducing pressure from the Port of Dover during peak traffic flows."
Posted on: November 13th 2018