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Issue 5 2015 - Freight Business Journal

Montrose’s new boss targets liner traffic

Adding new regular liner services will be one avenue that the new chief executive of Montrose Port Authority, Nik Scott-Gray will be exploring in his new role. The former business

development manager at Forth Ports, where he successfully developed the company’s commercial strategy for the development its ports, will be looking to build on Montrose’s current portfolio of business, which includes the fortnightly Ahlmark general cargo liner service from Kristinehamn in Sweden. The service, which also calls at Hull and Shoreham in the UK, brings in regular imports of timber and forest products on its 3-3,900-tonne coasters and is typical of the sort of business that the east coast port can successfully handle, says Nik Scott-Gray. Montrose, a trust port, is already

busy with a wide range of bulk and North Sea oil related traffic. “It’s quite varied, here” Nik Scott-Gray says. “We are in the middle of the agricultural heartland, and we already have good traffics such as fertilizer imports and exports of barley outwards. And there is also important traffic from Premier Cement in Ireland.” Local stevedoring companies


Grangemouth to Rotterdam: Scotland’s Central Line

Grangemouth-based Samskip sales manager Andrew Wilson is just a year away from retirement but there are no signs that he plans to slow down. Heading a team of three covering UK business north of the border, Wilson says his work involves “anything that happens in Scotland – from the central belt to Stornoway or the Shetlands: if it happens here, I’ll deal with it.” Shortly aſter graduation Wilson

William Whyte and Rix Shipping (Scotland) have invested over £1 million in new warehousing and new bulk stores and Nik Scott- Gray’s predecessor, John Paterson, oversaw a £6m programme to create new deep water berths on the north side of the port. This followed the £8.5m south quay development programme completed three years ago, and there is further quayside development included in the five- year master plan. Montrose can now handle ships up to 165-170 metres long. Other spending has gone

into surfacing and creating hard standing. Montrose is close to Aberdeen, but has much more space and capacity, so quite a bit of North Sea work is now coming

its way. Both Whyte and Rix have heavy liſt cranes available. Offshore and onshore wind turbine work is also a promising area.

Annual tonnage of shipping

visiting Montrose exceeded two million tonnes for the first time in 2014 and the numbers of oil and gas vessels using the port has more than doubled since 2011. Mr

Scott-Gray said: “I am

delighted to be taking over the helm at Montrose Port Authority at a time when it is enjoying strong growth and where it is now firmly established as an important North Sea shipping and logistics hub. I am looking forward to the challenge of continuing this expansion so as bring further economic benefits to Montrose and the local economy.”

Ports diversify in the face of falling fuel prices

Motorists may be celebrating the recent fall in petrol prices, but the sharp reduction in crude oil revenues recently gives the Scottish ports

industry a

dilemma. A large chunk of the industry’s revenue comes from the North Sea oil and gas sector, and canny managers need to be mindful that the industry’s revenues will almost inevitably fall at some point in the future. As divisional director for

Forth Ports’ Scottish operation, Stuart Wallace, says: “These are interesting times in the oil and gas industry. At the moment, people are working through a backlog of orders, so we’ve been relatively busy in oil and gas. But there is concern in the market about the end of 2015, as there seems to be no sign of an upturn in exploration and development.”

Forth Ports’ solution has been

to focus on adding value to its oil and gas customers’ operations, “understanding them and finding out what we can do to deliver cost savings. For example, we can use our quaysides and land areas to deliver more flexibility; we can base more of their fleet operations in our ports.” One example of that approach

is the Subsea7 spooling operation in

the port of Leith, near

Edinburgh. Juggling the location of various facilities has allowed the company to run its operation much more efficiently. The fall in oil price is by no

means all bad news for the ports though. It has increased the margins of the refiners, and this in turn has brought speculators into the market and the volumes of finished

products moving through the ports has increased. And there is still plenty of rig activity; Forth Ports Dundee has handled two so far this year and another is booked for July. Stuart Wallace sees a promising market in ‘cold’ or ‘warm’ rig lay-up, pointing out that

rig refurbishment and

decommissioning generates port traffic of all shapes and sizes. Container traffic meanwhile

is developing in Grangemouth, by far Scotland’s most important box port. A project to increase the amount of hard standing and deepen berths is about to start, and will increase the maximum ship size that can be handled from around 1100teu to about 2000teu. “We think it will increase container capacity by about 10%,” says Stuart Wallace. Grangemouth has been

spent five years at sea with Blue Star Line, before coming ashore for a five year posting in Dubai. Returning to Leith in the mid- 1980s he joined Anchor Line, a

company linked to Currie Line and George Gibson. Their demise reflected a very necessary consolidation but the trades on which their businesses were built remain. Wilson moved into short

sea services connecting Grangemouth to Rotterdam during his tenure at Anchor Line and subsequently remained dedicated to the trade lane, in the process passing through the relatively short-lived Geest/ Seawheel era, before stability was restored to the route via acquisition by Samskip.

“The interesting thing about the

trade itself has been its consistency over the years,” Wilson says. “The core service has been stable and reliable and continuously offered opportunities for growth for those willing to adapt by offering shippers and receivers service enhancements.” Grangemouth plugs into the

Samskip network via weekly sailings connecting to Rotterdam. Services include door-door and quay-quay services, part loads, specialised steel and construction logistics, and temperature controlled services.

Scottish truckers scrabble for scarce loads

Ask a Scottish haulier what they would really like for Christmas (or any other time of year) and the answer is likely to be: A large local industry, generating large volume traffic out of Scotland to balance the northbound flows. Apart from the wood chip industry, and to some extent the grain growers, there isn’t much traffic out of Scotland these days, so northbound flows outnumber southbound by two to one, or even more. It’s a problem that Gordon

Goudie of Grangemouth-based operator Duncan Adams has been grappling with for as long as he can remember. “There just isn’t the volume being produced in Scotland these days. Manufacturing is getting less and less, with the closure of industries like paper mills, so reloads are getting less and less – and the customers know it.”

successful in certain clusters,

such as chemicals and good and drink, he continues. “We’ve seen a big increase in reefer traffic. Traditionally, it was more of a seasonal traffic for us but it’s now year-round. We’re doing more fish, more cheese, even, from south-west Scotland, and we have the biggest reefer capacity of any Scottish port with the capability to go up to 400 points.” In the chemical industry, Ineos

is now investing in its local plant following the labour dispute that could have led to it being shut down about a year ago. Forth Ports is also thinking outside the box, so to speak. Stuart

Duncan Adams has coped

through a diversification strategy. The company, which has a depot on the docks at Grangemouth – and another warehouse nearby – has moved into container devanning, for example. Customers themselves have cut


headcount, so are oſten looking to their logistics providers to do this sort of work for them. Small and medium-sized firms are the lifeblood of Scottish industry generally, and especially so for firms like Duncan Adams, says Gordon Goudie. “The multinational firms may have moved their operations down south, but Scotland still has a massive chunk of these companies and it is those that we are mainly servicing, bringing in raw materials, devanning them, warehousing and distributing it. The bigger logistics firms may not

Wallace continues: “On the port- centric side, we’re developing warehouse opportunities in the 150,000sq ſt range, which we hope to launch in the next 12 months. It’s all driven by customer demand and it’s not necessarily all about containers – one of the projects we’re pursuing is for a bulk commodity.” Existing port- side operations include builder’s merchants Travis Perkins and Meyer Timber. One opportunity is the coming

redevelopment of Edinburgh; several major new construction schemes are coming over the next few years including a massive new retail centre, a new

be interested in delivering three pallets or so.” However, the customer base

has remained relatively static. New firms might be set up, but an equal number go out of business, so the picture doesn’t change fundamentally over the years. Duncan Adams is though

suggesting to its customers with interests south of the border that they should consider operating only a Scottish distribution centre. “Do you need a warehouse in England at all?” asks Gordon Goudie. “We can store here at low rates and distribute it down to England on the pallet networks – again at the same or even lower rates than it would cost from a warehouse in England.” The pallet network operators have the same problem of imbalanced traffic as the other hauliers and may well offer keen prices out of Scotland.

hospital and housing. Forth Ports Leith is only 1.5 miles from the city centre and it could have an important role to play in keeping construction traffic off the city’s roads which are already in pretty poor shape. Another massive project that

is now at about its mid-way point is the new Forth Road Bridge, construction of which has been serviced by the port of Rosyth, virtually in the shadow of the new crossing. The port recently handled its biggest ever ship, a 43,000-tonner with bridge segments; a massive amount of concrete is going into the project, all of it brought into Rosyth by sea.

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