Felixstowe: Trade up, but port not out of woods yet, say bosses

PORT chiefs say there is “still a lot of uncertainty” for the year ahead – and the shipping industry may not be out of the woods yet.

After recession first struck two years ago, officials at the Port of Felixstowe admitted business had slumped significantly, there were some 200 redundancies, and port workers accepted pay cuts of between six and 11 per cent to avoid large-scale job losses.

Last year container imports and exports worldwide bounced back to near normal levels and the port – which pre-recession was handling three million standard-sized boxes a year – also saw its handling figures increase considerably, though no official statistics have been released.

Andrew Harston, port development director for Hutchison Ports UK, said: “From the depths of the gloom that characterised the industry at the height of the recession, volumes on the world’s major container trades have bounced back strongly.

“We are certainly pleased to see that our customers are, once again, making money – it always makes our life easier when they are.

“Although the volume of containers moving globally was certainly very encouraging in 2010, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the market as to what 2011 has in store. We may not be out of the woods yet and we need to continue to adopt a realistic approach to our short-term forecasts and business planning.”

Mr Harston, speaking at the port’s community reception, said no one could accuse Hutchison Ports of not doing its bit to boost spending and the economy with the company investing hundreds of millions of pounds in expansion development to secure the future of the port.

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“Competition will remain strong, and a number of our competitors have plans to boost their own capacity so we cannot afford to be complacent, but I think we can be relatively happy about the comparative offer we make to our shipping line customers,” he said.

Two new deepwater berths are set to open this year – able to handle the world’s biggest ships.

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