Still no decision on Port expansion

IT COULD be another eight months before Britain's biggest port hears whether or not it will be allowed to carry out a £240 million expansion project, it was revealed today.

IT COULD be another eight months before Britain's biggest port hears whether or not it will be allowed to carry out a £240 million expansion project, it was revealed today.

Public inquiry inspector Michael Ellison is currently compiling his report and this will be with Transport Secretary Alistair Darling by March 21.

But port chief operating officer Chris Lewis said it would still be many months – probably late summer or even early autumn – before a final decision is made.

The port is hopeful of a positive outcome even though the Southampton Dibden Bay project was rejected.

It firmly believes redevelopment of Landguard at Felixstowe, Bathside Bay at Harwich, and Shellhaven, London, are all needed to provide enough container capacity for the country for the future, he said.

Speaking at a reception for community leaders, Mr Lewis spoke of the large numbers of jobs the port was providing and would generate in the future.

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He said: "The port is already one of the region's major employers, and in the last year alone we have created 200 new jobs, and will take on a similar number of people in the coming 12 months."

He also revealed the new quaysides at Felixstowe would be able to handle enormous ships still on the designers' drawing boards able to carry 12,000 standard-sized boxes.

The biggest ships currently calling carry around 8,000 boxes and 200 of these vessels are being built in the next few years.

Development of Landguard and Bathside Bay across Harwich Harbour would increase the capacity of the ports – both owned by Hutchison Whampoa – to 7.2 million boxes a year.

The new Felixstowe terminal will take three-and-a-half years to build, and double its capacity to 5.2 million standard-boxes a year.

It is expected to create nearly 1,500 new jobs – 621 port jobs and 860 in dock-related employment – within ten years of opening.

It will create a new terminal 100 metres further into the harbour, demolishing the flour mill and former P&O passenger terminal, and filling in the Dock Basin, the oldest part of the port.

The deepwater quay will be 1,350m long and able to handle three ultra large container ships and a smaller one simultaneously. There will also be a new eight-track rail terminal.

If given the go-ahead, legal agreements will ensure the port spends £1.5m on community facilities at Landguard – a new visitor centre, ferry berth and management of the nature reserve – as well as dualling the rail line, paying for improvements to the dock spur roundabout, and sound barriers on the A14.

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