Bigger ships and bigger cranes give Felixstowe Port a lift
Port of Felixstowe
Bigger cranes may spell bigger profit at Felixstowe Port, but a question mark hangs over whether future growth could be impacted by the prospect of a no deal Brexit.
Hutchison Ports Europe Ltd, the owner of the UK’s biggest and busiest container port at Felixstowe, has just posted its results for the year ending December 2017. The performance of the port’s container operations has grown, resulting in a jump in revenue for the group from £332.865m in 2016 to £347.919m in 2017.
The pre tax profit for the group increased from £63,043,000 to £65,479,000
The financial statement also revealed that the highest paid director got a pay increase of £29,000, from £764,000 in 2016 to £793,000 in 2017.
But the group’s 2018 results could be impacted by delays that have led to some lines temporarily diverting their ships to other UK ports over the summer. The delays have been caused by glitches resulting from the introduction of a new terminal operating in June.
MSC, and its vessel sharing agreement partners, switched their IPAK service from calling at Felixstowe to London Gateway earlier this month.
Noting the service interruptions at Felixstowe the container line told Seatrade Maritime News: “MSC has therefore been implementing a number of contingency measures to ease the impact of these interruptions on our customers.”
Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) also recently diverted its North Europe – Turkey (NET) service to Southampton. And In July, Maersk Line diverted one of its transatlantic services with MSC and its COEX service from Felixstowe to the Port of Liverpool for 12 weeks.
New giant cranes
In April, the Port of Felixstowe took delivery of its first remote control ship-to-shore gantry cranes that handle containers stowed up to 11-high and 24-wide on deck. Thanks to their giant size, these cranes are capable of receiving some of the world’s biggest mega-ships, which now make increasingly regular visits to the port.
In addition to the new cranes, the port is increasing its container storage capacity by 18,000 TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units - the standard industry measure of container capacity), upgrading its terminal operating system and raising the height of 10 ship-to-shore cranes at its Trinity Terminal. It also has eight additional yard cranes on order for delivery in early 2019.
Hutchison Ports has also been committed to reducing Felixstowe Port’s carbon footprint. While the visiting ships are still diesel-powered, the port itself has nine solar photovoltaic instillations that generated 463 MWh of electricity in 2017, equivalent to 250 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The introduction of new internal tractors fitted with start/stop engine cut out technology has also resulted in a fuel saving and fewer emissions. The group’s relative carbon footprint has imprived by 4.4% in the past financial year.
The port has proposals for a 300-acre 24-hour business park on farmland between Trimley St Martin and Kirton.
The business park will include warehousing, haulage yards, lorry parking and logistics centres, along with cafes and truck stop facilities. The port also has plans for a huge logistics centre within its own boundaries and for further expansion at Christmasyard Wood in Trimley,
Jason Flower of the Felixstowe Port Users Association recently warned that there could be difficulties if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, and without a transition period to prepare for the country’s departure from the bloc.
UK ports play a vital role in the UK economy. The Department for Transport confirmed that in 2016, UK ports handled around 484m tonnes of freight. Of the unitised traffic handled in the UK, 10.2m 22 equivalent units (TEU) of containers were handled - a record high.
The vast majority of the container ships Felixstowe receives come from China, “and that won’t change because of Brexit,” said
Felixstowe’s portmaster Ashley Parker. What it will affect is Felixstowe’s short sea traffic, their roll on-roll off freight ferries that go back and forth to Rotterdam.
“Because of Brexit, there will be customs and borderforce paperwork involved in the future - it won’t be seamless anymore,” he explained. “Because of free trade, its currently very easy to move cargo from one country to another and obviously speed is of the essence. If Theresa May doesn’t get Brexit right, there will be all sorts of blocks and impediments in that.”