Thursday, December 2, 2021

UK Port Reaches Landmark as 100 Million Container Target is Passed

Ceremony Held to Celebrate TEU Record
Shipping News Feature

UK – The Port of Felixstowe reports that it has now passed the 100 million TEU mark in terms of containers handled since moving its first container in the 1960s. Anyone stepping back in time would hardly recognise the port as it stands today. The original box handling terminal, New South Quay, utilised a single Paceco Vickers Portainer® crane on its 500 foot long berth.

Better known in those days for conventional services like the Eimskip (The Icelandic Steamship Company) weekly Icelandic run, by 1967 development had begun to benefit from the proximity to internationally connected ports across the Channel and the ease at which services could be diverted to serve the UK directly. Compared to the more militant atmosphere at ports like London and Liverpool, wages were lower and staff readily available.

The discarding of the Dock Labour Scheme in 1989, which was considered an anachronism by the Margaret Thatcher government, saw traditional UK dockers paid compensation to give up their right to transfer their ‘jobs for life’. Under the scheme they could not be sacked and, on retirement, their jobs could be transferred to their offspring (that meant sons, no gender equality then).

In addition if their place of work closed they had to be found a position elsewhere, whether one existed or not, and all this at rates of pay most workers could only dream of! Needless to say the abolition of the act was the catalyst to really open up the country to an avalanche of container trade by allowing boxes to be unloaded and loaded outside the traditional dockside areas by unregisterd staff.

When the 100th million TEU was loaded at Berth 8, the port’s newest facility and one of what are now four huge berths at the UK’S largest container port, a celebration was arranged and attended by UK Maritime Minister Robert Courts MP, who commented:

“The tens of thousands of maritime workers who keep our critical goods and supplies moving are the backbone of our freight sector, and kept this country’s supplies moving throughout the pandemic. Congratulations to the Port of Felixstowe on the 100 millionth TEU being loaded, which is a landmark moment for the UK’s busiest container port.”

Chris Lewis, Chief Executive Officer at the Port of Felixstowe said the port had been setting the benchmark for UK container ports since handling the first Sealand containers in what was then the Dock Basin in 1966, with the New South Quay, now named the Languard Container Terminal, officially coming into service the following year. Clemence Cheng, Managing Director, Hutchison Ports Europe, concluded:

“Looking to the future we are committed to continual investment, upgrading existing facilities, building new infrastructure and constantly improving systems, equipment and the way we work to deliver the level of service our customers require. As the number of ultra-large container ships increases we are continuing to invest in the facilities they require.

"Berth 7 has been deepened to 16.5 metres and next year we will increase Berth 6 to the same depth and future-proof Berths 8 and 9 by increasing them to 18 metres, further enhancing our ability to work the largest container ships afloat. At the same time we will be driving forward our agenda to ensure we do this whilst cutting our environmental impact and working towards net-zero emissions.”

As he says, work continues to keep Felixstowe ahead of the game and the task of deepening berths complements work being undertaken by Harwich Haven Authority to increase the depth of the port’s main navigation channel from 14.5 metres to 16.0 metres. The port management claims the additional depth in the harbour and seaward approaches will provide unrivalled deep-water access for the growing numbers of super-sized vessels that serve UK trade.

Photo: Yes that’s really how it was done back then! Handling containers at the Port of Felixstowe. Courtesy of Felixstowe Docker, the best website to learn anything about the Port.