PD PORTS has signed a major, forward-looking deal to develop its deep sea container business with the Far East.
Speaking to the Gazette exclusively from Kuala Lumpa, where the ink was still wet on an agreement that could bring some of the world’s biggest ships to Teesside, ports director Martyn Pellew said Malaysia was key to the region building traffic with the tiger economies of China and India.
“There are a number of ports here expanding capacity to handle transhipments from China and India and it’s that traffic we are after.
“One port in the south of Malaysia is dealing with as many containers a day as the whole of the UK. This port alone has an ambition to deal with 70million of the largest container ships a year - the whole of Europe handles 75million.”
He said negotiations with the Malaysian department of transport had been given a major boost by Middlesbrough FC’s win over Arsenal at the weekend.
“The Malaysians are football mad, so it was the best possible news we could have had. We are basically on a mission to raise awareness of Teesport and Boro’s result last Saturday did more for that than I could have done in a week!”
Malaysian-based freight forwarding company Infinity, which runs long-distance vessels from South East Asia to Europe and America will act as PD Port’s agent.
“We signed an agreement in front of 250 people in the shipping world with a view to developing an awareness that traffic can go through Teesport,” said Mr Pellew. “There’s no point building a £300million container point on Teesside if no one knows about it. Today, they can only use it for freight traffic coming through Rotterdam or Zebrugge, but in two or three years time, they can come direct.”
Earlier this week, the Grand Alliance of container lines said it was boycotting the UK’s south east ports because of congestion. From now on, goods will instead be shipped to northern European ports and transferred on to smaller vessels that can access the North-east’s ports. Importers will have to pick up the extra costs.
“The fact that GA has said they are no longer going to use Felixstowe and Southampton supports our bid for a deep sea container port in the North-east,” said Mr Pellew, who added that ocean going freight was growing by more than 10% a year.
Asda has already consolidated all its Far Eastern imports at Tees dock and Tesco is expected to move in next year following an application to build another retail distribution centre, almost three times the size of Asda’s.
An announcement on whether the £300million deep sea port project can go ahead had been expected from the government before Christmas. “Christmas is coming, but there’s still no news from the Department of Transport. I know of no reason why we should not get approval through now,” said Mr Pellew.