A new ferry service could be operating out of Ramsgate from next year under a fresh effort to re-establish a line from the port.
Thanet council is to appoint consultants to help woo a new operator to Ramsgate and says it is aiming to start a service from next summer and possibly earlier.
The development follows the demise of the port's previous operator, Transeuropa, which collapsed and went into administration in May.
Four crossings a day could be running from Ramsgate across to France
The company owes the council £3m in unpaid berthing fees after a secret deal was agreed between the two in 2011.
The surprise development has drawn a mixed reaction from politicians, with the Green party saying the council was "throwing good money after bad".
The council says it is looking to re-establish a "suitable ferry service" as a priority and in a tender document states: "It is our aspiration that this service should commence as soon as possible but no later than summer 2014."
Consultants are expected to be appointed next month and will be asked to provide a report detailing opportunities by next June.
Opposition Conservative leader on the council Cllr Bob Bayford said: "It is a tough market and it would have to be an experienced operator to come in.
"But there are things which are an encouragement – despite the all the competition, predictions are that we will need extra capacity by 2020 and because of where it is, it could prove more cost-effective for hauliers."
Transeuropa Ferries, which went into administration in May
Green party spokesman Cllr Ian Driver said the idea was misplaced.
He said: "I think the council will end up with a shortlist of zero. This is throwing good money after bad. I just do not think that the Port of Ramsgate can compete against cross-channel giants like Dover.
"It will be a complete waste of money. The history of the port is one of failure and it would need massive investment for this."
The state of the ferry market remains fragile. Before the collapse of Transeuropa, SeaFrance went into liquidation in 2011. Eurotunnel then bought three of its four ferries for £52m.
It is now running them between Dover and Calais under the MyFerryLink brand.
A Thanet District Council spokesman said: "In order to attract new business, the council is seeking industry expertise to help locate and deliver a suitable operator.
"Payment will only be awarded upon successful delivery of a new operator so is a low financial risk to the council."
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