North East's ports and aiports play vital role in recovery

THE role of the North East’s ports and airports stands to be important as the region looks to bounce back from recession, says Danny Cramman.

HISTORICALLY, the region’s ports developed alongside the strategic industries of coal mining, shipbuilding and steel production.

The rivers Tyne, Wear and Tees were industrial arteries with the majority of port activity being behind secure walls with limited public access.

More recently, the region’s economy has diversified with manufacturing, service industry and tourism replacing the declining traditional waterfront activity.

High quality, mixed-use development was promoted by the development corporations across the region during the 1990s which have considerably raised both the profile of the region and the immediate environments.

Schemes such as East Quayside, Royal Quays and Harton Staithes on the Tyne, St Peter’s in Sunderland, Hartlepool Marina, the Tees Barrage and Teesdale Business Park all brought forward high-quality, mixed-use developments, highly accessible to the general public as well as new infrastructure and environmental improvements.

Newcastle International Airport has seen considerable new investment in the terminal and airside facilities as well as airline additions championed by the introduction of daily flights to Dubai on the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The airport, which is run by the seven local authorities, recently announced that it had selected AMP Capital as the new partner for a 49% shareholding in the airport that will reduce debt in the business and support the long-term growth and development of the airport and North East economy.

The seven local authorities will in addition make a further £68m investment in the airport which is a major asset for the whole region with a throughput of 4.4 million passengers per annum.

Teesside Airport, which was renamed Durham Tees Valley Airport in 2004, handled in excess of 200,000 passengers in 2011 and has seen new investment by Peel Investments and the local authorities, including a new access road and car park improvements.

The two major sea ports in the region – Port of Tyne and Teesport – have also invested heavily in their operational port facilities and infrastructure to meet customer logistics and improved cargo handling. Both ports are seeking expansion potential within the renewable energy and off-shore sectors as well as their more traditional port activities.

Car handling on the Tyne reached record numbers last year centered around Nissan. The new Hoegh Northern Terminal operated by NSA UK handles import, export, and transhipments of cargo between the Far East, Scandinavia and the Baltic region.

The combined car volumes/annum through the three car terminals on the Tyne is close to 700,000 units, making the Port of Tyne the fifth largest car handling plant in Europe.

Major retailers Asda and Tesco have large logistics and distribution facilities within Teesport and the re-introduction of steel production by SSI UK at Teesside has seen in excess of one million tones of steel slab being exported through the port. The Middlehaven project has seen mixed use development around the Middlesbrough dock including a new campus for Middlesbrough College, office, leisure and residential uses.

Tourism is a significant contributor to the region’s economy and the increase in cruise ships and ferries to the Tyne has brought in about 80,000 cruise passengers to the region, up 80% on the previous year, contributing an estimated £45m to the regional economy.

The investment in new infrastructure and facilities by the region’s main ports will make a significant contribution to economic recovery within the region underpinned by other new activity and investment at locations including the ports of Sunderland, Blyth, Seaham and Hartlepool.

:: Danny Cramman is part of the National Markets – Industrial team at GVA


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