Ports - the UK's vital logistics link

Ports - the UK's vital logistics link

BQ Yorkshire recently turned its focus to the importance of the UK’s ports operations for the regional and national economies. Here Geoff Lippitt, Business Development Director at PD Ports, sets out their strategy and how important location is for ports up and down the country.

PD Ports has had a strong presence on the Humber for 50 years so we are perfectly placed to take advantage of the natural trade corridor cross-country while giving customers the most cost-efficient service through our enviable portcentric logistics. With operations at Immingham, Howden, Keadby and most recently Groveport, we’ve built a solid reputation as the project and bulk cargo experts on the Humber.

As we work alongside other ports, location is key and we have worked hard to make sure the right facilities are in place at each site. Our Immingham terminal facility is situated on the South bank of the Humber Estuary providing a prime East Coast position and a gateway to the Humber region, which has a strong industrial heritage supporting a range of industries. They are all there because of exceptional access by sea, to and from Continental Europe and beyond, or by land, as Immingham is located right at the heart of the UK and uniquely positioned, being just 200 miles from London and Edinburgh, which in fact, places 40 million consumers within a four hour drive.

Howden is located on the River Ouse and directly adjacent to the main M62 Trans-pennine motorway which connects Liverpool with Hull via Manchester and Leeds intersecting the M1. This link positions the Port with unrivalled access to the key industrial markets of the North, West and Midland regions of the country.

While Keadby’s main focus is the supply of a specialist steel handling and storage facility that both supports the industry and is utilised as a UK stocking point for a range of imported steel products. The port also handles other commodities such as forestry products and dry bulk cargoes.

From these sites we provide agency and freight-forwarding services for a diverse number of clients throughout the world handling all types of cargo. During 2015 we decided that as a strategic acquisition to further enhance our Humber operations, as a result PD Ports acquired Groveport, an inland port complex on the River Trent which has a strong position in the UK’s market for imported steel long products.

Close to Scunthorpe, with over 190 acres and nine berths, coupled with an excellent reputation, and a strong customer base with good growth prospects, this acquisition ideally complemented our existing businesses. Groveport is an excellent strategic fit with our other operations on the East Coast, where we are providing supply chain services in both the short and deep sea shipping sectors.

In our wider operations we can clearly show how the role of a port can enhance and change supply chain. Before the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was even a concept, PD Ports was on the front foot, putting connectivity at the top of its logistics agenda.

There is a need for a better connected North including better use of our rail and waterways to move goods around the country. To be competitive in UK container transport, rail requires well-positioned, high quality terminals and the site at Teesport delivers both.b We have just launched a new 550m deep water quay there after a £35m redevelopment, meaning that we now own and operate some of the deepest general cargo berths in the UK.

This 18-month project means the port can take two fully laden 235m long vessels simultaneously in water 14.5m deep. To get there, we had to demolish 24,000 tonnes of the existing concrete deck and used six miles of heavy duty steel tubes for the supporting piles.

We’ve also invested £3m in a new intermodal rail terminal at Teesport with daily services to Felixstowe, Scotland and Southampton with the opportunity to establish new routes to the Midlands and the North-West.

For Scotland, we partnered with DB Cargo in a completely new offering for the market from Teesport with daily weekday services running to Mossend and Grangemouth.

As the markets have changed, PD Ports has had to adapt as well and we are working together with other major ports to develop strategies to minimise the road distances that lorries have to travel and put the intermodal issue at the forefront of the Northern Powerhouse strategy.

Turning once again to the Humber, its advantage is its location positioned at a mid-point in the UK, 200 miles from London and Edinburgh and facing Northern Europe. The Humber estuary as a whole handles an average of 40,000 ship movements per year and is the country’s largest port complex.

Customers in general are not focused on whether the logistics supply chains are horizontal or vertical; they just want the most efficient way in terms of cost and service delivery to enhance their own offer to their customers.

We have invested heavily in our facilities to meet changing customer demand and will continue to go that extra mile so that we can provide that differential.

We are not a new arrival on the Humber; we have a considerable business platform and are using our expertise to strengthen our position even further. Over the years we’ve enjoyed growth as well as faced challenges in the sector but we are taking a long-term perspective and combining new technologies with old values – putting our customers first.