Only five minutes from open sea, in a prime position on the North Sea coastline, Port of Sunderland is growing a reputation as a location of choice for a range of marine projects.
At the heart of North East England, Port of Sunderland is perfectly placed – geographically and in terms of its infrastructure and support team - to deliver a range of projects, from bulk cargo handling to offshore and subsea support.
The port is making use of its natural assets and - with a number of strategic land acquisitions, demolition projects and investment in equipment – is building a track record with new customers who are impressed by its capabilities and flexibility.
Headed up by port director, Matthew Hunt, Port of Sunderland has seen a real step change over the last four years in particular, following the launch of a new strategy to position the port as a prime investment opportunity. The municipally owned port was highlighted in Sunderland City Council’s Economic Masterplan – a blueprint for the growth of the city’s economy – as an asset that Sunderland should maximise.
Matthew Hunt explains how the port has changed during his time at the helm.
“Port of Sunderland has a huge amount of potential, and we have focussed on ensuring that we make the most of that.
“We are in the fortunate position of being land-rich, with large expanses of space that we can maximise for a range of projects.
“Over the last few years, we have set about reclaiming underused areas of the port – this has included strategic land acquisitions and demolition work to remove some of the derelict buildings that were limiting the use of the land. It’s made a real difference, and positions us well to take on more projects, as well as to attract investors who are keen to take advantage of our blank canvas set-up.
“We now have the right infrastructure to support projects for a range of clients. For instance, the freed up land allowed us to work with E.On, on a major project, during 2014.”
The project to free up swathes of land at the port began with the clearance of old buildings that were no longer in use, from derelict structures, to dilapidated metal-clad sheds. In clearing the space, the port has been able to increase its storage capabilities, part of a plan to bring more trade and offshore vessels to the Wear. Covering 264 acres, the Port of Sunderland now boasts 40,000m2 of storage space.
And, as well as taking away redundant buildings, the port has added to its offer, with the purchase of a Liebherr heavy lift crane that is helping to see Sunderland become a more regular port of call for project and unitised cargo shipping. The port now handles more than 600,000 tonnes of cargo each year.
“The crane has added a new dimension to our offer. We are able to take on projects that we couldn’t have delivered previously, thanks to our improved capabilities. And it stands us in extremely good stead to support offshore and renewables projects too,” says Hunt.
“Our geographic position, ease of access and abundance of available space, means that we are perfectly placed to support developments such as Dogger Bank and Hornsea too. And the skills-base we have in this part of the world means we hope to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the sector. We have also finalised a Memorandum of Understanding with global logistics provider BLG WindEnergy Logistics that will see us work together to prepare the ground at Port of Sunderland, and ensure that it has the right infrastructure and logistics solutions to meet the needs of the offshore sector.”
Land at the port is now ripe for inward investment, with expanses of ground-space and warehousing readily available for businesses looking to make the move into Sunderland. And this has been enhanced by improved connectivity.
Work was recently completed to reconnect the Port’s rail line which is bolstering the port’s import and export credentials. The rail connections run right into the core of the port’s land, which means that it is possible for freight to be transported right into, and out of, Port of Sunderland.
And 2015 sees the start of work on a new River Wear crossing that will create what council bosses have termed a ‘strategic transport corridor’, better connecting the port to trunk roads including the A1 and A19. This enhanced connectivity really will change the nature of projects the port is able to support ?once again, and should make Port of Sunderland an even more attractive proposition for investors and day-to-day customers alike.
Hunt comments: “The work underway to improve the port’s connectivity is fantastic. We’re really well placed as it is, but enhancing that with better road and rail links is a real bonus. We enjoy easy access to two airports, and great rail links running directly between Sunderland and London, so we’re in a great position to work on such a broad range of projects. It really is an exciting time for the port and we really do believe that we offer something unique to the market.
“We’re adding to our offer day by day, and we are starting to see that work translate into bigger, more challenging projects – each of which we know we have the skills and infrastructure to meet with vigour.”
Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of the port board, feels the work undertaken to improve the port’s facilities and infrastructure is paving the way to create an investible proposition that will help create more wealth in the city.
He says: “Port of Sunderland benefits from great accessibility, and teamed with our work to improve the facilities and enhance its natural assets, we really do believe we have created a port that can compete on a national and international stage.”