Transformation at the South-west’s logistics gateway

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Avonmouth is readily accessibility to the national motorway network, which has been greatly improved within the past decade. The M4, M5 and M49 are within easy reach. Also, the area has a dedicated motorway junction on the M5 and the Second Severn Bridge is only four miles in distance. Both the Royal Portbury Dock and Avonmouth Docks are rail freight-connected to the national network. The Cabot Park International Rail Freight Terminal is a multimodal (road, rail and sea facility) located at the Avonmouth Docks.

Business opportunities

From the outset a main objective of the port’s new owners was a commitment to growth by market diversification, attracting new business and creating opportunities for the port. More than £312M of private investment has been spent towards improving the port’s facilities, introducing new technology and training a permanent workforce.

The port’s entire 2,600-acre dock estate is zoned for industrial use. Port expansion has continued since the 1990s, resulting in a range of leading international companies such as Arkady, Cargill, Daewoo, DaimlerChrysler, Honda, Mitsubishi, Proton, Rover, Suzuki and Toyota having used the area as a strategic location.

The main uses of developed land within today’s Bristol Port include:

  • Vehicle Transit storage (534 acres).
  • Forest products (50 acres).
  • Container Terminals & Transport (26 acres).
  • Bulk Terminal – coal, petroleum, grain derivatives, fertilisers, aggregates – (71 acre).
  • Grain & Feed Facilities (28 acres).
  • Fresh Produce Terminal & Reefer Storage (ten acres).
  • Oil & Gas Terminal (64 acres).

In the past year several new developments have strengthened the port’s market position, while generating new potential synergy for other industries in the area including:

  • The Bristol Aviation Fuel Terminal in the Royal Portbury Dock, which was specifically designed for the import of aviation grade Kerosene in vessels up to 120,000 dwt.
  • The Fresh Produce Terminal, which was opened in the Avonmouth Dock, containing an 8,500-pallet warehouse and constructed at a cost of £8.5M.
  • The European Juice Terminal in Avonmouth Dock, which is pumped from ship to a storage terminal (8,000 tonnes at a time), then distributed by road tanker to juice packers.

Overall, the port’s policy is one of continuous expansion. In 2004 the port was successful in attracting two high profile worldwide feeder-shipping companies. These include the French-owned line CMA/CGM and Mediterranean shipping line MSC.

There are plans to expand the Fresh Produce Terminal by a further 6,000 pallet storage spaces, which is expected to be ready by this spring. The port has also developed an entirely new market for vehicle storage, mainly the imports and exports of a wide make of motor vehicles. During any one day there are 80,000 (import/export) new vehicles stored at the port and about 700,000-plus vehicles pass through the port each year. In 1991 when the port was first privatised, the number of vehicles going though the port was a mere fraction of that number.

At nearby Cabot Park, Japanese car manufacturer Honda has located a centre at Rockingham Gate for the storage, enhancement and distribution of new vehicles, again numbered in thousands. Honda recently extended its facilities to a total of 90 acres. Increasingly the Avonmouth area is being recognised as an important part of the South-west’s strategic infrastructure, vital for the success of future economy activity. Located in a large urban area, with Bristol’s status, means Avonmouth has a key role for economic growth, regionally and nationally. About 37 million people (more than 63% of Britain’s population) live within a 250km radius of Avonmouth and the major Midlands and London conurbation’s can be easily served from Avonmouth, either by rail or road.

Furthermore, the Avonmouth area greatly benefits from the presence of growth industries, a skilled workforce, good communications, high standards of business and cultural facilities, an attractive environment and close proximity to the South-east. Forecasts suggest that the local economy is likely to expand steadily at a rate which maintains low unemployment and supports the growing population.

The excellent transport links, such as the M4, M5 and M49 network, high-speed rail lines, Bristol Airport and the Port of Bristol means that Avonmouth is readily accessible to the national and global markets.

In 2004 the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWERDA) published a major study assessing the potential for economic growth at Bristol Port, and detailing the area’s logistics strengths (see Table 2.). The study was prepared for SWERDA to develop a strategy for the South-west’s gateway facilities and to assess the future contribution of the region’s airports, ports and associated assets to local and regional economic development.

According to SWERDA’s study, the port plays a significant role in Bristol’s continued prosperity and has acted as a focus for investment throughout the city’s history. Today, the port generates £270M for the local gross domestic product, handles cargo with an estimated value of £9.3Bn annually, supporting 7,660 jobs in the local economy. Regionally, it has had an impact in terms of catalytic employment, the generation of additional jobs, which without the port’s expansion and corresponding logistics related activities may have gone elsewhere.

The SWERDA study confirms that Bristol Port is a vital part of the South-west’s transport infrastructure. Furthermore, the continued prosperity of the port is essential to the economy of the sub-region. The report also highlights that the transport; logistics and distribution sectors supported by Bristol Port are acknowledged to be important growth sectors, contributing to the economic fabric of a modern post-industrial city.

The report maintains that a city such as Bristol needs to act as a hub of transport logistics distribution of goods and services. Additionally, the port’s traffic and operations are likely to provide the basis for the growth of related services, administration and management and may support the growth of new manufacturing and distribution activities in the sub-region.

The local economy has been strengthened by the building of an adjacent 452-acre Cabot Park. This modern logistics facility has been successful in its own right not only in physically enhancing a previously industrial area by a programme of new road building, tree and shrub planting, but also in attracting new businesses.

New tenants, such as national brewing chain Scottish & Newcastle, have recently occupied new state-of-the-art-warehouse. Robert Wiseman Dairies has a new £5.6M warehouse built on the park, while DFDS Transport relocated its South-west base there. In 2004 the Avon & Somerset Police relocated its vehicle centre Cabot Park.

Strategic location

With each passing day Bristol Port and the surrounding Avonmouth area become more modern, aesthetically pleasing and attractive to industry as a strategic logistics location. Avonmouth meets the top criteria of key factors demanded by companies especially logistics and value-added based activities, when considering business location or expansion.

A good strategic with excellent transport links, room for expansion, site availability, a willing workforce and support and encouragement for local officials are high on the criteria list. Furthermore, much of the development now taking place at the port and Avonmouth is in step with the Government and Regional Authority’s aspirations towards seeking greater sustainability in future transport and distribution activities. n

Frank Worsford works in the transport studies group at the University of Westminster.

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