Construction on the £50 million outer harbour at East Port UK, now the trading name for Great Yarmouth port, is now well on its way.
The harbour will widen the port’s offering, providing 10m direct deep water access, enabling it to berth vessels of double its present capacity.
It has been designed to service the needs of a range of vessels, including the latest generation freight ferries, ROPAX ferries, self discharges, trade car carriers and container vessels. Traditionally the port has handled vessels up to 125 metres in length and six metres draught. But once the outer harbour is complete, during the first quarter of 2009, it will be able to accommodate vessels of more than 200 metres in length and ten metres draught.
East Port, which is the principal base for the offshore oil and gas industry in the southern North Sea, moves around 750,000 tonnes of oil and gas related cargoes across its quays each year. Eddie Freeman, chief executive of the port, and former managing director of Humber Sea Terminal, says the harbour will boost roll-on roll-off activity to 100,000 moves per year.
It will also offer 24/7 operation support, up to 1,000m of developable quayside, adjacent warehousing and open storage, and heavy lift/project cargo capabilities.
The harbour will offer the shortest crossing to The Netherlands, allowing for three times daily ferry crossings.
It deals heavily in offshore support, particularly for wind farms and oil rigs. The expansion will ensure it can accommodate changes in the offshore demolition market. Freeman says the type of equipment now used for decommissioning oil rigs is changing.
“Companies like Shell and BP have high global environment profiles to maintain. If a dirty part drops into the sea, they can’t just look the other way. They take it very seriously,” he says.
Britain’s port capacity is lagging behind demand. As a result, the major ports in the South such as Felixstowe and Southampton are heavily congested. Freeman is certain East Port’s roads can cope with future growth. “We will be able to guarantee hauliers spend a maximum of one hour in the port.” It will offer a more rapid turnaround and will take the heat off hauliers, who are caught out by long waiting times.
Freeman expects an ROI within five to seven years. He says once further plans for modernising the infrastructure and future expansions are taken into account, the costs will be nearer £100 million.
Road has been the dominant mode of transporting goods for a number of years. But with companies now under pressure to reduce their road miles, some may support a move to resurrect coastal shipping.
But Freeman thinks coastal shipping is not really an option anymore. “It’s tricky to do. Ship and unit sizes are much bigger, so unless you are moving huge volumes it’s not worth it.
“Rail too, is driven by volume. Most inland distribution centres are still hooked up to road links, not rail.”
He says there are projects underway in Europe to drive product off-road. “I can see the logic in transporting product across countries as large as Spain. But in the UK rail priority lies with passengers. It would be a matter of changing the habits of a lifetime.
“This is a world issue, something the government and the global organisations have to decide.”