Strong investment at the Port of Tyne has led to the business breaking its own records for cargo handling and passenger numbers, figures reveal.
The thriving firm – the North East Company of the Year 2013 – achieved its highest cargo volumes for over 50 years last year, handling 8.1m tonnes of cargo, a boost of 22% on the previous year’s record of 6.5m tonnes.
Of the total river cargo 97% was handled at Port of Tyne-owned berths and imported coal and wood pellet volumes were at the highest level ever recorded, with almost 5m tonnes of coal and 1m tonnes of the relatively new cargo of wood pellets.
Passenger numbers using the port’s international passenger terminal at North Shields also rose, setting new records for both the daily Amsterdam route operated by DFDS and for cruise passengers.
In all, 625,000 passengers – up 4% – travelled through the terminal, a figure which includes 64,000 passengers from the 32 cruise ships that called into the port over the year.
The number of cars handled through the port’s three car terminals was 640,000, a slight decrease on last year’s record of 670,000 which the firm puts down to the relative demand for new cars in the UK compared to overseas markets.
During the year the port continued to grow and invest in its infrastructure, buying two heavy lift cranes and acquiring 12 acres of land adjoining its existing south estate to further increase capacity. A total of 54 new jobs, including 12 new apprenticeships, were created to support growth plans, an increase of 11% in headcount which now totals 566.
There has also been significant investment in the development of the plans to expand wood pellet handling, storage and transportation facilities – a project that will potentially create up to 300 new jobs.
Andrew Moffat, chief executive officer, welcomed the figures but said the significant investments will impact on this year’s results.
He said: “We have continued to invest heavily in the port and in the workforce to help us achieve our aim of further growth and business expansion in the context of increasing competition in the UK port sector.
“I am expecting a strong set of financial results but our year-on-year performance will be negatively impacted by the significant investment in wood pellet development costs, crane repair costs and the associated impact on productivity. Being this busy does of course bring with it challenges, especially for our personnel who have responded magnificently throughout a period of organisational development and change.
“Overall we are pleased with activity levels and gratified that we can continue to contribute positively to the region’s economy with the continued support of our partners, customers, employees and other stakeholders.”