Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Control of Military Port Handed to RoRo Ferry and Automotive Freight and Logistics Interests

New Company Will Take Control from April
Shipping News Feature
UK – As with so many companies involved with the maritime sector David MacBrayne Ltd, which has been operating ferry and port facilities the length and breadth of the Clyde and Hebrides for the past 160 years, and currently manages operations at 24 ports, harbours and slipways as CalMac Ferries, also strives to succeed in other freight and logistics sectors. Now a new venture with Grimsby based GBA (Holdings), Solent Gateway Ltd, has won a Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract to run one of the UK's busiest military ports.

The MoD has awarded Solent Gateway a 35 year concession to manage the military movements through Marchwood Military Port, a 225 acre facility on Southampton Water, and develop trades to maximise the potential for commercial activities. David MacBrayne's chief executive, Martin Dorchester says that the new contract will utilise the combined strengths of both Solent Gateway partners when the firm commences operations in April 2016.

Whilst CalMac has an unequalled record in the overall operation of local ferry services in Scotland, GBA’s experience liesfurther afield in the provision of logistics services from 14 ports in the UK handling over 1.7 million vehicles per annum whilst maintaining similar operations in Turkey and India. Managing Director, Captain Sam Judah MBE said:

“We are delighted to be awarded this prestigious contract to run the Port of Marchwood. Its location and infrastructure are second to none and we will be using all our expertise and experience to ensure that existing services are delivered to the highest standard to maintain defence capabilities. We furthermore look forward to attracting complementary business to grow the port with opportunity to create additional employment in the area to boost both the local and national economy. We are extremely pleased to be working with our joint venture partners DML and we believe that our individual strengths will complement each other well in achieving greater success for the Port of Marchwood.”

MacBrayne will doubtless be delighted with a deal which helps shed its ‘Scottish only’ image. To ensure a smooth transition initially around 40 local employees will TUPE over to become Solent Gateway employees, but the company is confident that there is potential for more jobs on the site and Martin Dorchester commented:

“We are delighted with this news which reinforces David MacBrayne's credentials as an internationally recognised operation able to compete successfully in the global market place. It is an ideal extension of our current skills and experience of running ports across the west coast. While our core service will be managing a port that will continue to meet the military's requirements, we look forward to working with GBA to maximise the commercial potential of Marchwood.

“Marchwood presents significant opportunities for additional commercial development. We are committed to safeguarding existing jobs on the site and over time, and with full community consultation create more jobs as our plans for the site develop. Solent Gateway wants to become an important community partner in the area.”

Associated British Ports (ABP), owners of the Port of Southampton, was originally considered as favourite to take over the running of Marchwood and locals have expressed concerns about any future commercial practices likely to increase traffic congestion in the area, no matter who runs the port. With its military history, Marchwood, also known as ‘Marchwood Sea Mounting Centre’ was originally a loading point for amphibious craft destined for the D Day landings in Normandy and the facility might well see input from GBA’s speciality in the RoRo automotive sector.

Messrs Dorchester and Judah are both directors of the new company which has 5 other individuals on its board. David MacBrayne is of course essentially a subsidiary of Scottish Government with Scottish Ministers as its principal shareholder. Scottish Government Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay MSP said:

“I congratulate David MacBrayne Limited, as part of Solent Gateway Ltd, on winning this contract, this is an excellent example of a Scottish company with a strong public service ethos succeeding in a competitive marketplace. Winning a contract of this type is testament to the company’s expertise, reputation and hard work, and Scottish Ministers are particularly pleased to see DML extend its public service role.

“Although DML’s core market is and will remain Scotland, with focus retained on serving our island communities, we are supportive of the company’s efforts to explore opportunities which align with Ministerial expectations and its business expertise. I wish DML and GBA Holdings every success with this venture.”

Photo: Building Marchwood was an essential in Britain's wartime effort with construction of the ‘Mulberry Harbour’ to be undertaken there in support of the invasion of Europe.