Questions about new ferry connection between Ostend and UK
The British government wants to introduce a ferry service between Ostend (Belgium) and Ramsgate (UK) to relieve the expected bottleneck in Dover (UK) in case of a hard brexit. Some politicians, on both sides of the North Sea, have their doubts about it, though.
Gigantic traffic jams
Dover is one of the largest European ferry ports with numerous services to and from the European continent. In case of a hard brexit chances are real that trucks will need up to 45 minutes to pass customs. With 120 ferry services a day and 10.000 trucks passing by, this will lead to gigantic traffic jams in Dover.
That is why British authorities decided to introduce a new ferry service between Ostend and Ramsgate. The ferry service would be exploited by the British Seaborne Freight (a contract of 15,3 million euro) but the closer the deadline arrives, the more questions rise about the feasibility of the project.
“Seaborne has no ships, has never dealt with truck transport and has no experience whatsoever with such a service”, explains Paul Messenger, a politician from Ramsgate. He wonders whether there has been any research at all.
In the British newspaper, The Guardian, CEO Ben Sharp’s reaction on these objections was harsh. “We’re going to charter ships and we’re far from a start-up. Our company is run by an old hand and we’re supported by the financial heart of London.”
According to Sharp, some dredging works will be necessary in Ramsgate. Sharp wants to be operational with two ships before the end of March.
The new Mayor of Ostend, Bart Tommelein (Open Vld), has his doubts too. Tommelein is positive about the initiative but he wants ecenomical, financial and safety guarantees. According to Tommelein, there still need to be agreements with federal authorities and the police. “I don’t want our city to become overrun by transmigrants travelling to and from the UK.”
Years ago there was a ferry service between Ostend and the UK, exploited by the direction of maritime transport (Regie Maritiem Transport), but the service was shut down because it was loss-making.