Published: 16:33, 12 November 2018
| Updated: 19:29, 12 November 2018
A £200 million plan is being drawn up to use Ramsgate port to bypass a feared Dover-Calais bottleneck after Brexit, it has been reported.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling is said to want to expand the Thanet site to accommodate large ships as he looks to develop new sea routes to facilitate trade with the EU.
It is thought the new facilities would boost cross-Channel trade with Belgium, putting pressure on French president Emmanuel Macron to minimise any new frontier checks at Calais.
It is also understood there are back-up plans for increased freight traffic and lorry parking space at Sheerness port, reports the Financial Times.
Ramsgate's port is currently unable to accommodate large vessels so Mr Grayling is said to be looking at dredging it.
Thanet District Council, however, says that while information of the port's capability to support Brexit has been shared with the government, this has so far been met with silence.
Instead, the authority says it is in talks with potential operator Seaborne Freight to establish a freight operation between Ramsgate and Ostend.
A statement from TDC says: "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."
The authority says this would be beneficial to the Just in Time production processes and logistics.
It added: "The government has not responded to the council on that basis but we are aware that the government is having discussions with other parties regarding contingency arrangements.
"The port is one of the largest municipally-owned commercial ports and is the second closest UK port to the continent.
"The requirement for cross-channel freight volume is expected to increase steadily beyond Brexit and the Port of Ramsgate can play a significant part in providing additional capacity.
"This would give increased resilience to the European logistics market and support the flow of traffic across the south east of England, especially Thames Corridor, and would link into the third Thames crossing, diverting traffic east rather than south to Dover and the Channel Tunnel."
KentOnline's sister paper Thanet Extra approached the Department for Transport about Mr Grayling's plans, but it remained vague on the proposal.
It said: "We remain confident of reaching an agreement with the EU, but it is only sensible for government and industry to prepare for a range of scenarios.
"We are continuing to work closely with a range of partners on contingency plans to ensure that trade can continue to move as freely as possible between the UK and Europe."
More by this authorKatie Davis
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