THE operator of Teesport in Middlesbrough has today announced plans to axe around 120 staff to cut costs if the nearby Redcar steel works shuts.
PD Ports has told its 600 workers that is looking to reduce their number after a review of the business following the news last month that the Teesside Cast Products plant is at risk of closure.
The company has said it has also been pushed to review its staffing levels because of a fall in trade at Teesside industries in the recession.
Efforts to sell the TCP plant, which has nearly 2,000 staff, or to stop a consortium of buyers from walking away from a contract to take 78% of its output for the next five years are continuing.
But PD Ports chief executive David Robinson said he wanted to move quickly to protect his company from the impact of the steel plant shutting if it cannot be saved.
Mr Robinson said: "It is a very regrettable step but we have begun a 90 day consultation with staff to advise them of the risk of redundancy of around 120 positions because of the Corus TCP situation and general reduced levels of business through the port driven mainly by the continued UK and global economic recession.
"There is still a distinct possibility of that they might be able to save the steel plant from closure but we can’t sit around for months waiting for people to make a decision. We have to take action to protect our business."
He added: "Prior to the Corus TCP announcement, PDT had in recent months seen some reductions in other cargo flows though the port, in particular new car imports and chemicals and gas flows, and had therefore put in place other steps to continue to reduce costs in the business."
He said that he expected the consultation process to lead to a number of people coming forward to take voluntary redundancy but that this was unlikely to account for all the 120 redundancies.
The positions to go are not just manual workers but management and administrative staff at the port and would go beyond the 90 staff working purely on steel exports and imports. The port yearly brings in eight million tonnes of raw product to the plant and exports another two million tonnes.
Mr Robinson stressed that the business was still viable and had potential for growth in areas such as container transport.
In August the port will see the opening of Tesco’s new 900,000sq ft warehouse, one of the biggest of its kind in the UK, creating 1,000 much-needed jobs.
Its Teesport site in Middlesbrough is next to the existing Asda warehouse which employs 250 people and was opened three years ago.