Thursday, September 27, 2012

Port Competition Hots Up for Future Container Freight

Fight to Become Top UK Shipping Destination is on
Shipping News Feature

UK – With the ceremonial lifting of the first paving slab at Southampton’s 201/202 berths today the battle to be the premier British export – import and transhipment container port has taken another step forward. The fight between the deep sea accessible terminals is well and truly underway with works on berths 8 and 9 in Felixstowe completed and the new rail terminal being developed there, plus the construction of the London Gateway on the Thames within the key concrete girdle of the M25 it is essential for the South coast port to stay ahead of the game.

Last month we heard Southampton proudly announcing the simultaneous arrival of two of the world’s largest box ships and the high gauge availability via rail was credited in January for a 10% uplift in Southampton’s throughput of containers. Now the works in the port will combine the two berths into a new four berth facility for the next generation of ultra-large container carriers (ULCCs) and are predicted for completion by December 2013 and accessible to four vessels of 16,000 TEU+ simultaneously by January 2014.

At 500 metres long and 16 metres deep the quays will accommodate the new generation ships which reach 400 metres overall utilising the five installed cranes. ULCC’s are predicted by some to be the carriers of choice in the next few years. Many orders for the huge vessels were placed when shipping was booming such as Maersk’s Triple E series and now they are coming on stream it will be up to the liner groups to prove their viability.

Southampton, as well as the other major ports, knows that turnaround times will have to be pared to the bone to attract the shipping lines who are dependant on the economies of scale they predicted when ordering the bigger vessels. The investment by Associated British Ports (ABP) is an important one for the group and Peter Jones, Chief Executive commented yesterday:

“This is a significant investment for ABP and a major step forward in our plans to further develop the Port of Southampton, with its international reputation for competitiveness and ability to respond to customer needs. The £150m investment in the new berth and supporting infrastructure represents a huge vote of confidence in Southampton’s ability to meet the exacting demands of our customers in a new era where ULCC’s are set to become quayside regulars. It will also play a key role in maintaining an estimated 10,000 jobs connected to the operation of the port in the Southampton region.”

DP World has interests in the development both on the Thames and in Southampton and the company’s productivity at Southampton is reportedly currently at a record high, landside and shipside. Chris Lewis, DP World Southampton’s Managing Director said:

“As the operator of this important facility, we welcome this investment by ABP in Southampton. The new berth will ensure we remain globally competitive and successful by being able to handle the largest container vessels afloat. Having this new infrastructure capability is vital and underscores Southampton’s position as the first and last deep-sea port of call in Northern Europe for the Far East, with its sheltered location, first-class road and rail distribution links to the Midlands and market-leading service and productivity. We play a frontline role in global trade and the supply chain; the reconstructed quay will be a key driver for even greater productivity, with continued fast, reliable and secure services.”

Photo: The CMA CGM Magellan docked at DP World Southampton