Ramsgate Harbour
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Ramsgate Harbour

Port of Ramsgate
LocationRamsgate, Kent
Operated byThanet District Council
Owned byThanet District Council
Land area32 acres (130,000 m2)
Available berths3
Berths in marina700
Annual cargo tonnage1.59m tonnes (2009)[1]
Passenger traffic2,000,000

The Port of Ramsgate (also known as Port Ramsgate, Ramsgate Harbour, and Royal Harbour, Ramsgate) is a harbour situated in Ramsgate, south-east England, serving cross-Channel freight traffic and smaller working and pleasure craft. It is owned and operated by Thanet District Council.


A map of Ramsgate from 1945

The construction of Ramsgate Harbour began in 1749 and was completed in about 1850. The two most influential architects of the harbour were father and son John Shaw and John Shaw Jr, who designed the clockhouse, the obelisk, the lighthouse and the Jacob's Ladder steps.[2]

View of the inner and outer marina from land, at high tide

The harbour has the unique distinction of being the only harbour in the United Kingdom awarded the right to call itself a Royal Harbour. This was bestowed by King George IV after he was taken by the hospitality shown by the people of Ramsgate when he used the harbour to depart and return with the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1821.[3]

Because of its proximity to mainland Europe, Ramsgate was a chief embarkation point both during the Napoleonic Wars and for the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. The ferry terminal area is built upon reclaimed land.

Passenger and freight services

Port Ramsgate provided cross-Channel crossings for many years. It is situated 35 miles (56 km) from the French coast.[4] A car passenger ferry service to Ostend operated by TransEuropa Ferries was suspended in April 2013.[5] In 2016, Gefco commenced using the port.[6][7]


A Sally Line ferry at Ramsgate Harbour

Previously Sally Ferries provided a service of passenger and car ferries to Dunkirk. Between November 1998 and April 2013 a predominantly freight service was provided to Ostend by TransEuropa Ferries. Passenger services were only available on certain crossings, and then only with vehicles.[8] Ramsgate port has its own access tunnel avoiding town centre congestion.


Hoverlloyd ran a crossing from Ramsgate Harbour to Calais Harbour from 6 April 1966 using small, passenger-only SR.N6 hovercraft. When the much larger SR.N4 craft, capable of carrying 30 vehicles and 254 passengers, were delivered in 1969, Hoverlloyd moved operations to a purpose built hoverport in Pegwell Bay, near Ramsgate.

Royal Harbour Marina

The East harbour arm of the main Royal Harbour

The Royal Harbour has a large marina, primarily based in the inner pool of the original harbour, with water levels controlled by lock gates containing 700 berths, although a number of other berths are also available in the outer harbour, and so can be accessed around the clock, rather than just either side of high tide when the gates open.[9]

The marina has a number of facilities for sailors, including refuelling, utility hook-ups and amenity blocks.[10]

The lighthouse on the West harbour arm, designed by John Shaw Jr.

The lighthouse situated on the West harbour arm was built in 1842 and is 11m high; it is a Grade II listed building.[11] The lighthouse is active and emits a continuous red light;[12][13] (originally the light varied from red to green depending on the height of the tide at the harbour entrance).[14] It replaced an earlier lighthouse by Benjamin Dean Wyatt, which had been poorly positioned and suffered damage from passing ships.[11] Now powered by electricity, originally it was lit by an oil lamp, with a fourth-order Fresnel lens.[14] Carved in the stonework of the lighthouse are the words 'PERFUGIAM MISERIS', which are translated as 'refuge for those in need'.[15]

Lifeboat station

A lifeboat station was first established at Ramsgate Harbour in 1802 by the trustees of the harbour,[16] predating the formation of any national lifeboat organisation by more than 20 years. The original was built by lifeboat pioneer Henry Greathead, in the same year that he was recognised by parliament for the lifeboat being "deemed a fit subject for national munificence".[17]

After a lapse in service between 1824 and 1851 a station was re-established by the trustees, with the lifeboat named in honour of the lifeboat sponsor, the Duke of Northumberland. The new and prized boat had been built in accordance with the plans of a model that had been the prize-winner in the 1851 national competition for the best design for such a craft.

In 1859 Jerimiah Walker (having previously distinguished himself by his humane, zealous and successful efforts in rescuing the master and crew of the Northern Belle), as a seaman of the lugger Petrel assisted in the rescue of the crew of the Spanish vessel Julia, which had become stranded off Ramsgate. For this assistance he was awarded a medal struck on the authority of Queen Isabella II of Spain, thus Walker is believed to be one of the few men to have received two separate medals issued by different heads of state.

On New Year's Day 1861 an event at sea of considerable loss of life occurred with the wreck of the Guttenburg. Then, as now, the most hazardous area around the Kent coastline for any navigator was the Goodwin Sands.

In 1865, the lifeboat was taken over by the Board of Trade and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and was taken over completely by the RNLI, which runs the service to this day.[16] The current lifeboat station, on the harbour wall between the inner and outer pools of the main harbour, opened in 1998 and services both an onshore lifeboat, the 'Bob Turnbull' and offshore lifeboat, the 'RNLB Esme Anderson'.[18][19][20]

Offshore wind farm

The Thanet Offshore Wind Project required the construction of a 280m quay for the assembly of wind turbines.[21] Turbines for the London Array are maintained from an operations and maintenance base at the port.

Walkway collapse

On 14 September 1994 there was a failure of a ship-to-shore structure for the transfer of foot passengers onto ferries. It collapsed in the early hours, causing the deaths of six people and seriously injuring seven more. The investigation into the accident revealed that the same basic miscalculation had been made by both the designer (Swedish firm FKAB, a subsidiary of the Mattson Group) and certifying organisation Lloyd's Register. The parties involved, including the client, Port Ramsgate, were prosecuted and fined a total of £1.7m, which at the time was the largest fine in the United Kingdom for a breach of health and safety laws.[22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29] The Swedish firms refused to pay the £1m fine and as result pan-European law enforcement was changed in 2005.[30][31]


Some local residents are concerned about losses (c. £20 million since 2010) made by the port. A petition was presented to Thanet District Council on 6 December 2018 stating: "We the undersigned petition the council to accept we have no confidence in the Council's operation of the Royal Harbour and Port. So we demand that Thanet District Council create an independent working party to investigate the losses and bring forward a comprehensive regeneration plan within six months". It was agreed that the petition would be referred to the Cabinet.[32]

See also


  1. ^ "Provincial Port Statistics 2009" (PDF). Department for Transport. 2009. p. 9.
  2. ^ "John Shaw Snr". Victorian Web.
  3. ^ "About the Marina". Port of Ramsgate.
  4. ^ "Welcome to the Royal Harbour Marina". Port of Ramsgate.
  5. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20150610205024/http://m.thanetgazette.co.uk/articles/news/article/20085068. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Ramsgate gor Gefco UK Ports 8 February 2016
  7. ^ Ramsgate back in business Ships Monthly January 2016 page 6
  8. ^ "Website TransEuropa Ferries - History (page offline as operations stopped on 18-4-2013". Retrieved 2013.
  9. ^ "Ramsgate - Information". Harbour Guides.
  10. ^ "Marina Facilities". Port of Ramsgate.
  11. ^ a b Historic England. "Lighthouse on West Pier (1086089)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2019.
  12. ^ "Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society". Wlol.arlhs.com. Retrieved 2014.
  13. ^ "Lighthouses of Southeastern England". Unc.edu. Retrieved 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Lighthouse management : the report of the Royal Commissioners on Lights, Buoys, and Beacons, 1861, examined and refuted Vol. 2". 1861. p. 354.
  15. ^ "Perfugium Miseris". Ramsgate Town. Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ a b "Station History". Royal National Lifeboat Institution Ramsgate. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 2010.
  17. ^ Stephens, Alexander (1806). "7, Mr Henry Greathead, the inventor of the life-boat". Public Characters of 1806. VIII. London: Richard Phillips. pp. 181-208. Retrieved 2008.
  18. ^ "Boathouses". Royal National Lifeboat Institution Ramsgate. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009. Retrieved 2010.
  19. ^ "RNLB Esme Anderson". Royal National Lifeboat Institution Ramsgate.
  20. ^ "Bob Turnbull". Royal National Lifeboat Institution Ramsgate. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 2010.
  21. ^ "Fear for wind farm impact on port". BBC News. 21 December 2006.
  22. ^ "Ferry walkway disaster blamed on inept design". The Independent. London. 24 January 1997.
  23. ^ "Largest UK safety breach pay-outs". BBC News. 7 October 2005.
  24. ^ "Paying the price of safety failures". BBC News. 27 July 1999.
  25. ^ "Ramsgate Walkway Disaster". Hansard. 311 (c406W). 6 May 1998.
  26. ^ "HSE publishes report of the walkway collapse at Port Ramsgate". 28 January 2000.
  27. ^ "Ramsgate port operators guilty". The Independent. London. 18 February 1997.
  28. ^ Chapman, J.C. (1998). "Collapse of the Ramsgate Walkway". The Structural Engineer. 72 (1): 1-10.
  29. ^ Chapman, J.C. (1999). "Lessons from the collapse of the Ramsgate Walkway". Forensic Engineering: A Professional Approach to Investigation: 27-38. doi:10.1680/feapati.27879.0004. ISBN 0-7277-2787-7.
  30. ^ "European Review Issue 18 page 6". Tueip.dircon.co.uk. Retrieved 2014.
  31. ^ Rennie, David (25 February 2005). "New EU law means no escape for drivers caught speeding abroad". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  32. ^ "Minutes Template".

External links

Coordinates: 51°19?34?N 1°24?57?E / 51.32611°N 1.41583°E / 51.32611; 1.41583

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