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Southampton’s frontline role in global trade was today being underlined with the official launch of a £150m investment project at the port by Associated British Ports (ABP) who is the port owner and joint venture partner in DP World Southampton - the container terminal operator.
The ceremonial lifting of the first paving slab signals the beginning of the reconstruction of berths 201/202 at the container terminal in a milestone project that will combine the two berths into a new fourth berth for the next generation of ultra-large container carriers (ULCCs).
Reconstruction will bring berth 201/202 full circle, 40 years on at the deep sea container terminal. The facility was originally commissioned in 1972, when the very first container vessel, Kamakura Maru, arrived in January 1972 at berth 202.
The new berth is required so the container terminal can continue to service four of the largest container ships simultaneously. The works are due for completion by December 2013 with the berth being operational in January 2014.
Capable of handling the next generation of 16,000 TEU+ vessels, which are 400m long, the quay will be 500m in length with five cranes and 16m depth alongside.
Ultra large container carriers, utilised for economies of scale, are predicted to account for more than half of the capacity of the world’s total container fleet by 2015; in the past five years alone, vessels in Southampton have doubled in their average throughput per call.
These larger vessels need the high productivity and short turnaround times which Southampton already offers.
Reconstruction works are part of a port plan to offer the capability to handle the largest container vessels on order and provide the terminal with the capacity to grow its throughput in line with customer demand.
Peter Jones, Chief Executive of Associated British Ports, the UK’s leading ports operator, said: “This is a significant investment for ABP and a major step forward in our plans to further develop the Port of Southampton, with its international reputation for competitiveness and ability to respond to customer needs.
“The £150m investment in the new berth and supporting infrastructure represents a huge vote of confidence in Southampton’s ability to meet the exacting demands of our customers in a new era where ULCCs are set to become quayside regulars.
“It will also play a key role in maintaining an estimated 10,000 jobs connected to the operation of the port in the Southampton region.”
Chris Lewis, Managing Director, DP World Southampton, said: “As the operator of this important facility, we welcome this investment by ABP in Southampton. The new berth will ensure we remain globally competitive and successful by being able to handle the largest container vessels afloat.
“Having this new infrastructure capability is vital and underscores Southampton’s position as the first and last deep-sea port of call in Northern Europe for the Far East, with its sheltered location, first-class road and rail distribution links to the Midlands and market-leading service and productivity.
“We play a frontline role in global trade and the supply chain; the reconstructed quay will be a key driver for even greater productivity, with continued fast, reliable and secure services.”
Dredging works, to widen and deepen parts of the main approach channel between the Isle of Wight and the port, are awaiting approval by the Marine Management Organisation.
A contract for the works was awarded to VolkerStevin, a specialist in quality construction and project management services, by ABP in July following a competitive tendering process.
Rob Coupe, Managing Director, VolkerStevin, said: “The port’s customers rightly expect the best of operational capability and we look forward to providing that, on time and within budget, through the reconstruction of 201/202 into a world-class berthing facility for our client.”
As part of the multi-million pound investment programme, up to five ship-to-shore super post-panamax cranes will be installed at the reconfigured berth.
Productivity at DP World Southampton is currently at a record high, landside and shipside, thanks to what Mr Lewis cites as the “dynamic can-do culture” by employees who are keen to see the terminal become the best in Western Europe.