A year of progress amid challenging times
AS 2008 rapidly draws to a close, many businesses across the UK will be breathing a sigh of relief and hoping that the next 12 months will be somewhat better than recent ‘doom and gloom’ forecasts in the media.
PD Ports, like many businesses has not been immune to the effects of the economic downturn. However as a region, the North-east seems not to have suffered as severely as many areas in the UK.
Despite a downturn in volume linked to reduced flows of crude oil, a falling flow of imported cars and a slowdown in container volumes due to weaker UK consumer demand, 2008 has been a year of real progress for PD Ports at Teesport.
The past 12 months has seen the continued awareness raising campaign in the Far and Middle East for PD Ports’ now fully approved deep sea container terminal, known as The Northern Gateway (NGCT). Construction has also started on the 1.2 million sq ft Tesco import centre at Teesport and across the river at Hartlepool there has been growing success for PD Ports in the offshore sector.
In December 2007 PD Ports first began important initiatives to increase the company’s presence and visibility in the Far East as part of a broad awareness campaign for the NGCT.
The campaign began in 2007 with a visit to Singapore and Malaysia by key port representatives and has continued successfully since then, with strategic visits in 2008 to Thailand, Dubai, China, Vietnam and India. The aim of these visits has been to further establish PD Ports’ plans to attract deep sea vessels to call directly to the company’s northern UK port of Teesport.
Back in the Tees Valley, PD Ports group development director, Martyn Pellew, is continuing to lobby both locally and to the UK Government for much needed infrastructure upgrades on the North-east rail network.
While a recent minor success has enabled a few modern high cube, taller containers to be taken by rail to Scotland, this is only a short term solution.
“These upgrades remain a vital issue, in particular, full rail gauge enhancement for both the Teesport spur to the East Coast Main Line and also for the ECML in either direction north through Newcastle and into Scotland as well as south to Yorkshire and the Midlands, commented Pellew.
“If we are to achieve the full potential of the NGCT and the Tees Valley businesses then we need to see much greater use of rail rather than road transport for onward inland movements. We must see full rail gauge enhancement being authorised as soon as possible.”
Increasing levels of container traffic passing through the NGCT will be brought to the Tees by the likes of leading retailers ASDA Wal*Mart and Tesco who are based at the Port. ASDA Wal*Mart successfully opened a 360,000 sq ft import centre at Teesport in 2006 to handle 75% of its general merchandise destined for its northern consumers. In doing so the retailer has estimated in excess of two million road miles saved per annum by bringing its goods closer to their final UK destination.
This major UK logistics trend of handling goods at the UK port closest to their final UK destination has also been endorsed by Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer. Construction is proceeding at pace on the 1.2 million sq ft import centre, which is the equivalent of 22 football pitches. More than 800 new jobs are expected to be created at this new Tesco facility and recruitment will begin in the New Year. Operations are expected to commence from summer 2009.
2008 also saw the creation of 80 new jobs at Hartlepool due to the growing success of the Port’s offshore-related activities. In July, PD Ports signed a 15-year lease with subsea cable manufacturer, JDR Cables Ltd, which now operates from a 100,000 sq ft factory, located on the deep water berth at Hartlepool dock. 2009 is anticipated to bring further developments in this important sector at Hartlepool.
Looking beyond 2009, the longer term prospects at the port and in the Tees Valley region are planned to see the progress of a number of significant developments. MGT Power have gained local Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council planning approval for their proposed wood chip fuelled 300mw power station at Teesport but have yet to achieve the necessary approval from Department of Energy and Climate Change.
This £400m investment will bring new jobs in construction (2010-2011) and operations from 2012. Conoco Phillips and partners has gained planning approval for their proposed new liquefied natural gas facility at Seal Sands but progress toward implementation is not expected before 2010.
It is also hoped that outstanding issues on land ownership can be swiftly resolved to enable Sonhoe to progress with exciting plans to create a heavy oil upgrader processing plant in the Tees Valley.
So while the next 12 months forecasts further challenging times for us all, PD Ports and fellow North-east businesses are firmly committed to progressing with projects that will prove vital to the future economic sustainability of the region.
Everyone at PD Ports wishes all staff at the Gazette and its readers a very Merry Christmas and successful 2009.