Portico eyes launch of Portsmouth-Antwerp container route
Proposed short-sea connection a response to concern about a 'chaotic' Brexit while also being tailored to businesses operating ‘just-in-time’ supply chains
Portico, the operator Portsmouth's deep water cargo terminal, has unveiled plans to open a new container route between the western Channel port and Antwerp.
“We’re working with the Port of Antwerp to establish a new service, as they look to expand their network of shortsea container routes from the UK. We envisage this being a weekly return service, which would be spread between import and export. We’d look to begin the service with a small feeder vessel, which could then increase in size as demand rises,” the company's commercial manager, Ben Harraway, told Lloyd's Loading List.
He said a Portsmouth-Antwerp route would be a “fantastic” alternative for exporters and “a phenomenal addition” to UK supply chains.
“It avoids existing routes that are congested enough already and complements Portsmouth’s extensive list of existing roll-on, roll-off services to western France and Spain.
“Antwerp offers multi-modal links; containers can be moved on by rail, road or river. The location is terrific. You get your cargo closer to where it’s going.”
Harraway underlined that the proposed new service was also a response to anyone worried about a chaotic Brexit.
“The service will be Brexit ready.Our customs team is highly experienced, with years of dealing with documentation for non-European Union destinations. For example, half of all the bananas in the UK arrive at Portsmouth, coming from Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
“Plus, we are an officially Authorised Economic Operator. This means we are approved by HM Revenue & Customs to handle customs paperwork and approve documents ourselves. This saves a lot of time for customers.
He said that given the uncertainty of the UK's future trading relationship with the EU, now was an ideal time for businesses to look at how they could 'future-proof' their supply chains to ensure they don’t suffer from any disruption.
“The service is ideal for any business operating a ‘just-in-time’ supply chain, or who are shipping perishable goods and pharmaceuticals.
“It will also mitigate the impact of future border friction as the containers can be pre-cleared for customs checks, ensuring businesses continue to meet any contractual obligations they have.
Harraway revealed that there are extensive plans in place to minimise the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the Port of Portsmouth.
“Hauliers travelling to Portico will not be subject to any additional checks. We have also been successful in securing funding to install intelligent gate automation. This will help with the efficiency of managing traffic on site.
“However, the advantages of the shortsea service aren’t all about Brexit - the service is fast, allowing hauliers to drop their goods at our centrally located terminal and go. It’s also eco-friendly. For example, if a vessel takes 200 containers to Antwerp, that’s 200 vehicle journeys off the road.”
Journey times between Portsmouth and Antwerp are estimated at 14-16 hours.