Fortunes ebb and flow at northern ports
By Chris Tighe and Andrew Bounds
Published: July 26 2009 23:15 | Last updated: July 26 2009 23:15
A short stretch on the south bank of the river Tees exemplifies the roller-coaster ride the east-coast ports of the north of
This land is part of Teesport, the
It is a coup for PD Ports and gives Teesport’s owner stature in the fast-growing renewables sector. It adds 2.4m tonnes in imported woodchip fuel to the group’s annual cargo processing.
Nearby, Tesco will next month open a £100m, 1.2m sq ft import centre serving northern
But a mile or so along the Tees towards the river mouth, the Teeside Cast Products works, a huge site dominated by the
TCP accounts for about 2m tonnes of steel slab exports annually through Teesport. Its iron ore terminal handles up to 8m tonnes of imported ore a year and 1m-2m tonnes of coal. Some other Teeside plants are also threatened with impending closure.
Babcock & Brown Infrastructure, which owns PD Ports, this year put the business, whose main focus is Teesport, up for sale, but the uncertainty surrounding TCP has caused delay.
Martyn Pellew, group development director of PD Ports, says TCP’s difficulty is a “big cloud on the horizon”. However, he insists that “long-term prospects remain remarkably good”. Other power station developments are possible and Teesport’s ambitions in offshore wind farming have been enhanced by this month’s opening of a manufacturing plant on
Falling land prices in the downturn have also spurred investment. AV Dawson, a family-owned logistics business in Middlesbrough which has a wharf on the
And Peter Stephenson, chairman of Able
Immingham and its three sister ports,
Spread of trade – from coal to wheat and fertilisers – has helped, but he says it is difficult to forecast in the short term. The port has a bright long-term future and investment plans will go ahead, Mr Fitzgerald says, not least because of the low-carbon revolution.
“Ports and energy have always been linked. They developed in Victorian times to take British coal around the world to fuel the industrial revolution.”
There would be a ready trade in importing material to make biofuels and servicing offshore wind farms, he says.
ABP also wants to build a cruise terminal at
Cruise passengers spend an average of £120 at each destination and
The port hosts P&O overnight passenger services to Zeebrugge in
With cruise tourism contributing more than £5m annually to north-east
Like Immingham and
Smaller east-coast ports have also showed adaptability. The
Flexibility and an east-coast location are big assets, but in a recession, Mr Pellew observes: “Bad news comes more quickly than good news.”
Planning law also needs to change. “It’s no good having a wish list for renewable energy and not getting on with it,” he says. “If we’re going to take this economy forward out of recession we need a planning system which helps investment.”