Monday, October 24, 2011

UK Ports Invest To Increase Freight Throughput

Tight Market Means Cargo Handling Facilities Have to be Up to Scratch
Shipping News Feature

UK – Whilst many in the freight and logistics industries look toward the future with some trepidation it seems the country’s port operators realise that to survive they must invest and make their locations of interest to as many as possible. We recently saw how Felixstowe was investing in deep water terminals to enable the port to compete with European rivals as well as the developing London Gateway scheme being constructed on the Thames.

This month PD Ports completed the re-configuration of its Hull container terminal based cranes to increase the facility’s efficiency and meet the company’s growth expectations. PD Ports called in heavy lift experts Sarens to jack up one of the three rail-mounted ship-to-shore gantry cranes, weighing 650 tonnes, which was then moved to allow the terminal’s two even bigger cranes to be positioned alongside each other further along the quay wall. After repositioning further back on the quayside using a mobile heavy lift trailer during the operation the giant crane was then repositioned back on the quay rails.

The two larger cranes have also been electrically refurbished, which involves switching the drives from a low-voltage system to a high-voltage system to improve efficiency, while the third crane will undergo a partial electrical refurbishment and all the work was carried out to improve cargo throughput as Paul Mcgrath, PD Ports Hull General Manager, explained:

“We moved one of our two larger 35 tonne capacity quay cranes to allow them to operate alongside each other, rather than being separated by our smaller 29 tonne capacity crane. By changing the set up, our two larger cranes will become our mainline cranes, while the smallest will become back-up. This will help increase the speed at which we can process vessels and therefore maximise operational capacity to meet future growth.”

Samskip and ESL/MacAndrews are PD Ports main customers in Hull and the terminal operator expects an increase in their existing business with the recent adaptation also enabling them to attract new business.

Meanwhile on the opposite coast, Peel Ports have celebrated a 25% year on year increase in freight volumes for the first six months of this year after investing over £1 million in infrastructure improvements in the last 18 months to accommodate the substantial growth in unitised cargo at the Port of Heysham. Works have included the acquisition of four new Tugmaster vehicles, necessary to accommodate the increase in volume of trailers and to modernise the existing fleet, and extensive resurfacing to the Freight Park, plus ongoing maintenance and improvements to the facilities there. Heysham Port’s general manager Bryan Davies commented:

“We have seen a steady increase in our unit volumes over the last 18 months; however the growth in the last six months has been at an escalated rate. We are confident of further growth for the remainder of 2011 and have invested heavily in our infrastructure to accommodate this.”

The growth of traffic through Heysham is due in no small part to the introduction of a new Seatruck-Larne service, which in its first 12 months of operation has increased to a twice daily service. PD estimates this service will accommodate 50,000 units this year. Heysham is a major link to the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man and figures released by the Department for Transport show that in the first half of 2011 Heysham Port handled more than 225,000 units, a 45,000 unit rise compared with the same period in 2010, no mean feat in view of the state of the Irish market.

Photo:-The 650 tonne crane being moved across the Hull quayside.