Since it was established in 1967, Felixstowe Port has consistently been ranked as both the biggest and most efficient of all the UK’s container ports. How has the port grown and what does its future contain?
A year of celebration for container shipping
In December 2016, Felixstowe began a year of celebrating its history as a container port. But the beginning was very humble indeed. Known at its inception as simply ‘New South Quay’, the port began with just 150 metres of quayside and a single container crane. Back in 1967, Felixstowe was chosen as a promise location for container traffic for two reasons:
- proximity to major shipping lanes
- easy access to Northern European commercial ports.
While those two facts help to explain the success of Felixstowe in the early days, it’s continuing importance as a major centre of container shipping owes as much to the development of port technology as to location.
Today the Port of Felixstowe has nine deep water berths with a combined meterage of 3,000 and 33 ship to shore cranes servicing two major terminals, Landguard and Trinity. While Landguard was built in the 1970s, Trinity Terminal was only completed in 2004 and continuing development, particularly of Berths 8 and 9 which can now handle two mega-vessels simultaneously, continued until 2015. Trinity Terminal was notable for being the first post-Panamax facility in the UK.
As a result, The Port of Felixstowe handles 42% of Britain’s containerised trade today. It is ranked as the 35th busiest container port in the world and the sixth busiest in Europe.
A little known fact about the Port of Felixstowe is that much of the land it sits on belongs to Trinity College Cambridge which purchased a tract of land near Felixstowe in the 1930s that ended up becoming the most significant UK shipping port.
Post-Pamamax container shipping
What makes Felixstowe unique is the volume of container traffic it handles – more than 4 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) annually. This works out as more than 3,000 ships every year, including handling the largest container vessels at sea because Felixstowe offers some of the deepest water available close to European ports. As such it’s no surprise that thirty shipping lines operate out of the port, servicing around 400 ports around the world.
In addition to the deep water facilities, Felixstowe has been developed to offer road and rail links that provide logistic and warehousing opportunities across the UK, with easy access to distribution hubs in the Midlands which ensure trade is kept moving across the country.
The creation of the newest terminal involved the reclamation of additional land from the River Orwell but also includes the site of the New South Quay, bringing the story full-circle and ensuring that the largest container ships in the world are handled where the very first container ships visited 50 years ago.
The future of Felixstowe
A sixty million pound rail scheme has been given the go-ahead by the Transport Secretary – it will permit 47 freight trains to run daily between the port and Ipswich. The new rail link is seen as vital to helping reduce the carbon footprint of supply chains, especially for the smaller and specialist importer who will benefit from 33 freight services daily to 17 destinations.
Reducing HGV miles has been a key factor in the planning of new services at Felixstowe and since 2015 the port claims to have reduced road haulage miles per annum by over 100 million, with the new rail scheme increasing the figure substantially by 2020.
Growing customer demand has made it clear that rail freight is not simply an attractive option but that consumer led demands for transparency on the environmental and public health aspects of logistics are increasingly changing the focus from road vehicles to freight and even water-borne transport systems.
Alongside the rail development, permission has been given for a deepening of the water in Berths 6 and 7, as well as increasing the crane height on those berths, to ensure that mega-vessels can be serviced efficiently.
Port competition and logistic challenges
Few ports can compete with Felixstowe’s deep water facilities, which is one reason it’s a popular shipping port from Scandinavia, a region that has complex import/export needs, exacerbated by long winters and the tendency of some ports to ice up, requiring substantial and expensive interventions to maintain access. As a result, mega-vessels – those able to carry more than 18,000
TEUs – have become a mainstay of the Port of Felixstowe’s business. Three massive new ship-to-shore cranes, each with a 62 metre outreach, have been added to Berths 8 and 9, giving the possibility of loading and unloaded vessels with 24-container-wide decks.
Mega-ships operate increasingly on the Asia to Europe route and planned changes to Felixstowe’s cargo handling mean that ships which can currently only use Berths 8 and 9 may be able to utilise a wider range of docks at the port, making it even more attractive to mega-container shipping.
There are more than 700,000 square feet of warehousing space within an HM Revenue and Customer approved wharf area. This gives cargo owners and onward carriers access to a range of managed logistics services including ambient and temperature controlled facilities.
This is simply a small part of the 2.2 million square feet of covered storage on site at the port or port adjacent.
A further 1.5 million of covered storage is planned in the next five years and the local development framework plan has earmarked a further 5.5 million square feet of land that will provide future logistic services to support the Port of Felixstowe’s expansion.
However if you are looking for a more cost effective alternative within easy reach of Felixstowe then contact DMG Freight Services today on 01279 452468 or click here for contact details.