(archive picture)

New "Brexit ferry" to Ostend scrapped before it started, but "Ostend is ready" for alternatives

Plans for a new ferry link between the ports of Ramsgate and Ostend have collapsed after the British government suspended the contract with Seaborne Freight, but Ostend keeps hoping: "We are ready."

If the U.K. would leave the European Union without a deal on 29 March under a so-called hard Brexit, the ferry link between Calais and Dover could become congested due to the extra border and customs checks. The British government has been looking for alternatives, with a revival of the old Ramsgate-Dover link being one of the options. 

A concession was granted to Seabourne Freight, worth 15 million euros. However, this sparked controversy from the start as the company had no experience with ferry services, and also lacked qualified staff, and even the ships. The British government has now suspended the deal. 

Ostend is ready. We have made the necessary preparations

It's a blow for Ostend, which hoped to welcome a new ferry service, says Ostend Mayor Bart Tommelein: "I wasn't surprised, because I had my doubts. Seabourne Freight was an empty box to me, right from the start. To be honest, I think it took the British government waited long to scrap the deal."

Tommelein believes it's still possible: "It's clear that the British government supports the idea of new links with the Continent. I believe that sooner or later we will go to the table to negotiate. Ostend is ready, we have made the necessary preparations." Mr Tommelein will contact the British embassy next week.