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Issue 6 2012


Southampton ready for the big ship era With all the hype over new container gateways for London, it’s easy to forget that one south coast port has been quietly serving the capital and the rest of the UK for centuries. Southampton has now received the green light for the next phase of its expansion, which will see it build a new berth capable of handling two 16,000teu ships simultaneously. The port is also home to a varied and flourishing collection of forwarders and liner agents.

Green light for new container berths

Southampton will have its new berth for large container ships by early 2014, the port’s owner and its principal container operator said at a ceremony to mark the start of construction on 27 September. Representatives of Associated British Ports and terminal operator DP World watched an excavator ceremonially liſt the first paving slabs at berths 201 and 202. Invited guests included the city mayor, who worked on the same berth when the port handled its first container ship back in 1972. Together, ABP and DP World

are investing £150 million in the project, which will see a 500-metre long quay constructed with five cranes and 16m depth alongside. DP World Southampton

managing director, Chris Lewis, said it had been “a long, long wait” for consent to start the work, without which the port would not be able to handle the new generation of 16,000teu container ships that are due to start taking to the water in numbers from around 2014 onwards. He told the gathering: “Having this new capability is vital and underscores Southampton as the first and last deep-sea port of call in Europe for the Far East, with its sheltered location, first-class road and rail inks to the Midlands and market- leading service and productivity. Southampton also has unique tides,

which minimises berthing delays for ships.” The consent process had been slowed by a judicial review, which followed an objection by Hutchison, which owns the rival port of Felixstowe, and the process had been delayed further by a change in responsibility at government level, Chris Lewis told FBJ. In all, the start of the project had been held up by about 12 months, but the port would still be ready just in time for the expected deployment of larger container vessels by DP World’s customers. These ultra large container carriers are expected to account for half the world container fleet by 2015, he pointed out. The significance of the new berth is that it will be able to handle two of the new generation of

ships simultaneously, giving

Southampton the flexibility to cope with its customers’ future requirements. Chris Lewis paid tribute to the

efforts of his workforce in pushing productivity up by 32% - the best ship and land side productivity in the entire country, he claimed. The two rail operators at the port,

Freightliner and DB Schenker had played their part, with Freightliner recently commissioning new cranes at its quayside terminal a month previously. Rail, already important to Southampton with a 36% share of inland movements,

A long and difficult birth

The feeling in Southampton is that the judicial review of the application, though legally valid, was deeply frustrating especially as it hinged on an objection from a port over a hundred miles away. ABP’s port director for

was set to improve its share still further to around 40% in the next few months, claimed Chris Lewis. ABP’s chief executive Peter

Jones meanwhile thanked DP World and the city council for their support in what had turned out to be a gruelling consent process. He added: “I would also like to thank the ABP team under Doug Morrison who never gave up throughout the tortuous process.” At the opening ceremony, Rob

Coupe, managing director of the contractors VolkerStein, revealed that production of some of the key prefabricated parts had already started, so the project is effectively under way. The scheme involves extending an existing quay face and then back-filling behind it. The one remaining piece of the jigsaw is getting permission to

dredge the channel, work which it is hoped will start next year. Southampton

is a multi-

purpose port and containers are one of its “three Cs” explained Doug Morrison, the other two being cars and cruise ships. Southampton’s car trade has been expanding by 30% lately, driven mainly by a surge in exports. Minis, Jaguars and Land Rovers are in heavy demand in many parts of the world, especially China. “Most of the car trade is deep-sea, and it just hasn’t been affected by the economic problems of Europe,” he explained.

ABP has invested £7m in a

fourth multi-storey car storage area and a fiſth is due to be built in the eastern docks but ultimately car facilities may have to be built in the western docks too, he said.

Southampton welcomes giants of the sea

You ain’t seen nothing yet... Southampton is upgrading its berth capacity from 13,000 to 16,000teu

Just weeks before the sod-breaking ceremony for the new berth, the

port of Southampton handled two of the current largest and newest container ships simultaneously on 20 August when Hapag-Lloyd’s Hamburg

Express and UASC’s

similarly-sized Jebel Ali berthed in tandem at the DP World terminal. These vessels however were ‘only’ about 13,000teu, whereas the new berth will be able to handle two 16,000teu ships at the same time.

Southampton, Doug Morrison added that, in his opinion, the legislation governing port applications was “fundamentally flawed”. He told FBJ: “I can accept the need for environmental impact assessments, but there should be laid-down time-lines – as indeed there was under the old legislation.” ABP had had to consult with a vast number of different authorities and interest groups, some of them as far away as the Isle of Wight, and the process meant that the planning process could be stretched out over years, or even a decade or more. Even for relatively simple schemes, such as the planned straightening of one of the port’s car berths, ABP had had to consult Network Rail and the Highways Agency, even though there were no no public highways or rail routes in the vicinity. However, Mr Morrison ruled

out any ‘tit for tat’ objections against Felixstowe schemes – the Suffolk port has in fact already put its new container terminal

into service. “I think the industry has to be more grown up in its approach,” he argued. “If ports start to object to other ports’ schemes, where does it all end?” The judicial review has put

a cap on the amount of traffic Southampton will be able to carry of 2.5m teu, based on available road and rail capacity, but this will be more than enough to cater for foreseeable future demand. Southampton is currently handling around 1.5m teu a year, and at its peak just before the recession was moving 1.8m teu, so there should be plenty of scope for expansion. The UK ports industry as a

whole is set to bring a further 3m teu annual capacity on stream between now and early 2014, with major schemes at Felixstowe and DP World’s new London Gateway, which is due to open in early 2013. However, the issue is not total capacity but the right kind of capacity, namely berths capable of handling the new generation of ships, point out ABP’s group head of marketing, Frank Robotham. At the time of writing, only three UK ports – Southampton, Felixstowe and London Gateway – have or are planning to have such capability in the next two years or so.

DP World breaks box record

DP World Southampton handled 651 moves (54.25 crane moves per

hour) during a 12-hour

night shiſt, setting another UK productivity record. The feat was achieved on the Hyundai Ambition by the company’s D

Team on quay crane 29. Managing director Chris Lewis,

described its as “an excellent achievement” despite the poor weather conditions - high winds and rain had closed other ports during the day.

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