Gateway to the North East

Regional ports are the assets for our region, according to specialist commercial property writer Chris Dobson

Despite being surrounded by seas, there are comparatively few major ports serving the main island of Great Britain and all the 11,073 miles of its shore-line. And of the British ports we have, some are very specific, such as Aberdeen’s focus on the North Sea oilfields and Dover’s focus on cross Channel links with France and Belgium.

East-facing as our region is, the distant horizons for our ports clearly include Europe, in particular Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark but also Scandinavia, Finland, Russia, Lithuania and Poland. And this is not the complete picture of the markets accessed from the North East.

So when a requirement for commercial space from a potential inward investor arrives from Invest North East England with some essential requests for being ‘up to 20 miles from a port with good road access to the rest of the UK’ then bells should be ringing at our two major ports on the Tees and Tyne.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone who has driven from the Channel ports to the M1 or M11 that a crucial point is the favourable location and accessibility of our ports, instead of, as the Port of Tyne’s integrated logistics operation puts it, “battling through the congested South East and adding thousands of unnecessary road miles to the mix”.

Ports are not just for export/import functions. Increasingly, tourism is a major contributor to port activities. The Port of Tyne celebrated an all-time high of 44 cruise ship visits in 2016, with more cruise lines than ever before discovering all that North East England has to offer. This year already, over 50 cruises have been booked for the Tyne.

The Port of Tyne’s cruise and ferry business adds some £60 million to the economy of the North East, supporting an estimated 1700 tourism-related jobs. 2017 sees the return of Thomson Cruises to the UK and to the Port of Tyne as its sole UK departure port with 12 cruise calls from Thomson Celebration.

Also returning in 2017 are Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Cruise and Maritime Voyages, German-operated AIDA cruises, Holland and America Line and the return of Disney Magic. Other new operators visiting the Port of Tyne include Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Once world-renowned for coal exports, the Port of Tyne has diversified to ensure it can keep pace with the global economy and its customers’ varying needs. It is now one of the UK’s largest car exporters and one of the largest handlers of wood pellet in the world.

In addition, the Port of Sunderland covers an area of 106 hectares (264 acres) where a wide range of tenants undertake a variety of port and maritime-related activities and industrial operations. Premises and land are available on attractive lease terms to businesses operating in various sectors – as well as companies with cargo handling and freight storage requirements – who are seeking a secure location within easy reach of the commercial heart of the Sunderland’s centre and the region’s major transport arteries.

The Port’s Conventional and Bulk Business Area has benefited from infrastructure development and major river-dredging so that the main Riverside Quays can now handle 86 per cent of the world’s largest cargo ships.

The Logistics Business Area offers customers an integrated package of container handling, warehousing and distribution. Goods handled through the container terminal include retail products, parts for manufacturing and almost a third of the UK’s tea imports.

The Port of Tyne’s three car terminals were developed to support the growing automotive sector and in particular provide Nissan with the most efficient route to market for its products.

The Port’s Estates business manages a growing portfolio of commercial properties and land holdings with over 100 business tenants and also offers property development opportunities. In terms of Gross Value Added (GVA), in 2015 the Port of Tyne added £710 million to the regional economy of the North East, supporting 14,000 jobs directly and indirectly.

To the south of the region, Teesport says its transport links are first class and that “it is the gateway to the North”. Located less than a mile from the mouth of the River Tees, it’s a deep-water facility with a natural marine opening, providing lock-free access to the North Sea.

Fewer areas of the UK are better served by road and rail services. Teesport has direct access to the A66 trans-pennine East and West routes and A19/A1 M1 national motorway links for North and South. This is complemented by direct rail links via the East Coast Main Line and TransPennine routes to all parts of the UK.

PD Ports owns, operates and acts as statutory harbour authority for Teesport and the Port of Hartlepool, handling over 40 million tonnes of cargo and 5000+ vessels annually. The port’s estate covers some 779 acres and is an integral element of the wider industrial area.

The strength of Teesport is its versatility and adaptability through its two container terminals, three general cargo berths, three Ro-Ro berths, in excess of two million square feet of covered warehousing and substantial open storage areas, over three million square foot of port-centric warehousing currently in operation, private rail sidings capable of handling a full range of cargoes and extensive open storage compounds.

And giving us a sign that the North’s four main ports can work together is the formation of a Northern Ports Association – formed to make importing and exporting much easier.

The association’s creation was a recommendation in IPPR North’s Northern Ports Report, which highlighted the domination of southern ports and the problems this creates in transporting imports and exports across the UK.

For instance, at present, 60 per cent of freight destined for the North is delivered to southern ports – leading to unnecessary motorway traffic, delays, pollution and inefficiency.

Bringing together the four ports of Liverpool, Hull, Teesport and Port of Tyne means the North can act as a genuine gateway to the world, connecting Atlantic shipping in Liverpool in the west to the East’s links with the continent.

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