THE Port of Tyne has said it is confident of further growth this year after handling record cargo volumes in 2011.
Port chief executive Andrew Moffat said records were broken for cars, containers and bulk cargoes, with the total tonnage of cargo handled jumping 66% to 5.3m tonnes. The port has invested more than £100m on infrastructure over the past 10 years, including the deepening of the river by up to 10m to enable it to accommodate larger ships.
Consultant Arup has said the port’s work in 2011 had a knock-on effect on the region as a whole, adding more than £460m to the North East economy and supporting 9,500 jobs. This is 700 more than in 2010.
Moffat said: “We’ve grasped some crucial opportunities, such as the import of wood pellets, which we snatched away from a rival. We’re now among the market leaders in a new sector.
“However, Nissan has been an important customer for a long time and it performed exceptionally well last year. More or less everything for their operations up here comes through the Port of Tyne. In addition to that we’ve got customers in the retail sector such as Tetley and JML.
“We’ve invested £100m in the last 10 years and £26m in the last two. If you looked back maybe 10 years it was a different type of business, built on the export of coal in the 80s and 90s. It was clear it needed to diversify, and we’ve continued to focus on diversification in terms of cargo and customers.”
The investment has allowed the port to cater for 83% of the world’s cargo ships and 96% of the world’s cruise ships.
Its largest increase in volumes came in conventional and bulk cargo, where it boasted an increase of 116% and coal imports nearly trebled to 2.1m tonnes.
Wood pellet tonnage reached 800,000 tonnes in the first full year of the new wood pellet-handling facility.
Car imports and exports were at a record 667,000, up 20% as the new third car terminal finished its first year of operation.
Companies such as VW and Nissan have allowed the port to maintain its position as the UK’s number one car exporting port.
Nearly 600,000 passengers travelled through the International Passenger Terminal, either on one of the 20 summer cruises or on a DFDS Amsterdam ferry service.
Port of Tyne also handles logistics such as containers and warehousing, as well as estates. A record 71,000 teu (20ft equivalent units) of containers were handled during the year, a rise of a quarter.
Moffat is confident that 2012 will also bring growth, and said the port was also looking to invest further in other areas.
“Our numbers are being audited at the moment, but with the volumes we’ve been talking about I’m expecting to able to announce some strong results for 2011.
“There’s a lot of investment in people, and the workforce has responded to the challenge which is very positive. We’ve got significant plans for this year. We’re having discussions on opportunities in the renewables sector, and we’ll planning further investment.”
The port currently employs around 460 people directly, but there are around 2,000 working on the estate at various times, employed either by the port or its tenants.
Moffat said its workforce had increased by around 5% in the last year, and he was hopeful of further increases depending on the opportunities it pursued.
“We have plans for further growth and with growth comes opportunities for employment.
“I’d be optimistic about job creation, whether it’s by ourselves or a third party here.”