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Shipping giant set to quit port

PUBLISHED: 11:41 28 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:54 03 March 2010

A WORLD shipping giant could be set to pull out of The Port of Felixstowe, striking yet another blow for workers.

The future of Maersk Sealand's dealings in the port are now shrouded in mystery following reports of a rift between them and dock operators, Hutchison Port Holdings.

By Jessica Nicholls

A WORLD shipping giant could be set to pull out of The Port of Felixstowe, striking yet another blow for workers.

The future of Maersk Sealand's dealings in the port are now shrouded in mystery following reports of a rift between them and dock operators, Hutchison Port Holdings.

Both sides are remaining tight-lipped over the speculation that Maersk is poised to switch from Felixstowe to Tilbury because Hutchison refuse to give it a dedicated terminal.

Up to 100 people work for Maersk at Felixstowe, but it is not yet clear what effect a move would have on them.

Last week, a political row shadowed the port as Labour and Conservative MEPs fought to stop a directive which will force British Ports to put many of their internal operations out to contract.

If stevedoring was put out to private tender it could mean all workers being forced to work for new and separate companies.

That could mean less pay as casual workers, or more than 1,900 job losses with new cargo handling companies bringing in their own workforce.

Last month, worried seamen contacted the Evening Star because of speculation that massive shipping and transport group P&O could be taken over.

Although nothing had been confirmed, officers and ratings from P&O North Sea ferries sailing from Felixstowe were bracing themselves for changes in services and possible job losses.

The row between Maersk and Hutchison broke out because the Danish shipping line wants its own terminal in Britain to accommodate future expansion here.

But Hutchison is intent on resisting the request for its own exclusive berth, which would be half the Felixstowe Trinity Terminal, because it is determined to remain a multi–user terminal operator.

Maersk and Tilbury Container Services are said to be at an advanced stage of negotiations.

But the shipping line, which is said to have reached a deadlock with Hutchison, is also looking at other options in the UK as well as other parts of the world.

Michael Hassing, managing director of the UK-based company, confirmed that it was an ambition for the shipping line to secure dedicated terminal facilities to provide a cost-effective service to Maersk and its customers.

Felixstowe has been a focal point for Maersk operations since 1998 when it switched its main Europe-Asia service from Southampton.

The south coast port was said to lack the space to handle the volume of Maersk Sealand.

No-one from the Port of Felixstowe was available for comment.

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