Ports and water based freight

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From Peel Holdings – Atlantic Gateway Business Plan

The widening of the Panama Canal is opening up new trade routes – suppliers are looking for increasingly lower cost and lower carbon transport options whilst manufacturers and retailers want to be nearer to ports to reduce goods handling, freight costs and transport time. With an already well established port system and supporting infrastructure with capacity for expansion, the Atlantic Gateway area is in a strong position to capitalise on this shift in global markets to expand its port operations and develop a more integrated transport network with the Port of Liverpool, Port of Salford, Port Warrington and Port Wirral at its core.

The development of the port network is a major priority for Atlantic Gateway and provides an opportunity to:

• leverage significant investment into the area

• increase trade volumes in and out of the Port of Liverpool

• substantially reduce freight transport costs

• reduce road freight and carbon emissions

• create a substantial number of port centric jobs

• increase the ability of Atlantic Gateway businesses to compete internationally.

Proposals have been developed to create a new terminal at Seaforth, Liverpool which will accommodate new generation post-Panamax size vessels and will see a dramatic increase in the volumes moving in and out of the terminal. The new terminal will almost double the capacity of the existing operations and will enable faster turnaround of vessels in and out of the facility. The wider supply chain implications are significant and will increase the demand for port centric logistics and other related services. It is anticipated that the new terminal will create some 6,000 jobs, cost £300m and will establish the Atlantic Gateway as a major destination for manufacturers and retailers. The development of the port is dependent upon essential dredging of the Mersey to enable access for deep sea vessels and deliver benefits to other users of the estuary.

The increase in the use of the Manchester Ship Canal has caused some local controversy In Warrington and in particular Stockton Heath where local councillors collected over 4000 signatures. Warrington is unique in that all three main roads into the town from the south pass over the swing bridges causing backlogged traffic flows for up to an hour when ships pass along the canal. Over the past few decades, with the reduction in traffic on the canal, the bridges have been opened approximately once a day. However with the development of Port Salford the bridges are expected to be open up to seven times a day.

Negating this disruption to road traffic are the reductions in freight carried by road and rail which results in immense reductions in carbon emissions. Canal shuttles carry 250 containers, which is potentially 250 less lorries clogging up the roads. A larger canal transporter is now in use moving 2,000 containers at a time. Already, the number of containers being shipped via the canal has increased from 3,000 in 2009, to about 25,000 in 2013, and Peel Holdings hope that this will rise further to 100,000 containers by 2030.

Gary Hodgson, Managing Director of Peel Ports Mersey, has stated that the planned investment would result in “huge savings in cost, carbon and congestion for the UK”. He further added: “It is a catalyst for change for the port. Once we link that with the investments we are making in the Manchester Ship Canal, this will allow shippers to move cargo from the Far East through Liverpool 40 miles inland towards Manchester into warehouses without touching a single mile of UK roads.”

The goods are going to Port Warrington which is at Arpley Bridge near Warrington and Port Salford. These are the main ports close to the OLV region. However there are also other North West ports planned at Bridgewater, Ince and Wirral. Both Port Warrington and Port Salford have train links moving the goods across the North West and to other UK regions. It is expected Port Salford will generate up to 16 overnight freight trains on the Manchester to Liverpool line and onto the West Coast mainline. Approximately 6 will be starting from 2014 and further trains will run when the facility at Salford expands.

Our Local Voice says:

Clearly an extremely efficient and environmentally friendly option for moving the regions freight. Integral to the Atlantic Gateway concept the project is fundamental to the regeneration of the North West. It is making use of a much underused part of the North West’s infrastructure which is as relevant today as it was when it was dug by our ancestors in 1893. The canal is in good order and there is not the disruption of building new facilities. The impact on green belt is minimised although there are issues over Port Warrington being close to Moore Nature Reserve and the huge facility at Salford much of which will destroy green belt.

However we have to have economic growth and schemes such as these minimise the impact on our green infrastructure and are the ultimate in carbon friendly.  It is a good option, however we hope Peel Holdings and the combined authorities of Liverpool and Manchester regions do not forget that we also need a clean and green environment running as a thread through the infrastructure of the Atlantic Gateway.

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