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Container ports hit by trade dip

PUBLISHED: 17:11 03 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:29 03 March 2010

NEW figures show that Britain's container ports' trade has dipped for the first time in more than 30 years.

But it is not yet known whether Felixstowe – the country's leading boxport – has suffered a decline in the amount of cargo it has handled.

NEW figures show that Britain's container ports' trade has dipped for the first time in more than 30 years.

But it is not yet known whether Felixstowe – the country's leading boxport – has suffered a decline in the amount of cargo it has handled.

Its owners, Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa are not due to release their annual report and figures until next month.

Even then, the company will not be precise about the success of its individual ports, with detailed figures kept a closely-guarded secret for commercial reasons.

Industry observers commented in the first quarters of last year that Felixstowe was experiencing a drop in throughput, but this was never confirmed by port officials, who stated it was not policy to give part-year statistics.

The global economic slowdown is though bound to have had an effect on the port, which handles 2.7 million standard-sized containers each year.

Latest industry-wide figures calculated by Drewry Shipping Consultants say Britain's total container throughput fell by 0.5 per cent in 2001.

Deep sea terminals at Felixstowe, Southampton, Thamesport and Tilbury handled 4.6m standard-sized boxes.

The consultants attributed the drop to the world economic problems and the loss of some feeder traffic to European ports, but say future prospects are good and the drop in throughput "should be temporary".

In 2000, Felixstowe and Thamesport – also owned by Hutchison Whampoa – enjoyed a 4pc growth in traffic, and the group's ports handled 25m boxes.

Felixstowe's container total has grown virtually every year since Landguard Terminal was built as Britain's first purpose-built terminal in 1967. It is waiting for government clearance to carry out further expansion.

Other ports are also waiting for permission to expand, and shipping companies have warned that Britain faces a shortage in quayside capacity which could become acute within four years.

Maersk Sealand, which has been asking Felixstowe Port for its own dedicated terminal, feels the situation is even more serious – and has warned that deep sea lines may soon start serving British ports with feeder ships because of the lack of capacity and because they are "overcrowded and congested".

Taking feeder ships from European transhipment hubs rather than direct calls from larger ocean-going ships will mean less revenue for ports and push up costs for importers.

WEBLINK: www.hph.com.hk


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