Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Container Freight Market Quells Old Rivalries as Cargo Tonnages Rise

Joined Again by the Trade Which Fostered Enmity
Shipping News Feature

UK – In Britain there are traditional intercity rivalries which have developed over decades, often over centuries, some as in Glasgow and Edinburgh have their grounding in religion and football, others such as Newcastle and Sunderland simply born out of attempts to better ones close neighbours coupled with competition for jobs*. Often these disputes were fostered by the working men of a community and none were more vehement than those who competed for cargo on their respective waterfronts as with the stevedores working the Port of Liverpool and the dockers who handled freight which came via the Manchester Ship Canal.

The canal emerged from the old courses of the rivers Irwell and Mersey which, as levels of trade increased and the rivers silted up became unnavigable for vessels of any size. A grand scheme was devised to open the route for larger vessels when the dock charges levied by Liverpool became excessive in the eyes of Manchester merchants. There seems to be some merit in this argument as many traders chose to import and export via Hull on the far coast rather than pay the rail haulage and port rates. In 1885 the bill to create the waterway was passed after much acrimony and on New Years Day 1894 the canal was open for business.

Now of course the face of business has changed beyond recognition and the two rivals are joined by a common ownership. Peel Ports are anxious that old hostilities are shown to be a thing of the past and are keen to demonstrate that together the two areas are now actually a single freight corridor. In 2007 the company began a regular barge service to link the 44 miles between the Seaforth international container terminal at Liverpool and the Irlam container facility in Greater Manchester just as the pressure to reduce emissions by cutting lorry movements started to be promoted more forcefully.

The development of services continues, despite global worries over trade, and now between the Port of Liverpool and Manchester Peel Ports has introduced a 160 TEU carrier to help run a thrice weekly service which has an additional call at Ellesmere Port saying that a turnover of 3,000 boxes three years ago has now risen spectacularly with a target of 15,000 TEU in the current year. To support this growth Peel has invested in two new Liverpool based straddle carriers from Liebherr with an option on two more whilst operating the existing stock of seven Liebherr ship to shore cranes and having also just purchased a further 40 tonne mobile harbour crane from the same supplier. Stephen Carr, Head of Business Development for Peel Ports Mersey said:

"The spectacular growth in demand for the barge service over the last two years has enabled us to invest in this next level of capability. Whilst the existing barge has served us well, the capability and flexibility offered by the new vessel and crane will enable us to better meet the growing demands of retailers, FMCG & industrial goods manufacturers and shipping lines alike.

"Over the last year, we have already invested in upgrading the terminal to ISPS security standards and the terminal operating system that is linked to Liverpool via the MCP Destin8 community system allowing containers to be routed directly to Manchester using the GBIRL code. This new investment delivers the next phase of improvements in the quality of this service."

Photo: Peel Ports ‘Monica’ the latest 160 TEU vessel plies her trade on the Manchester Ship Canal.

* (and of course football)