The Scottish Region visited the Port of Grangemouth on Wednesday 18th April 2007 and were given a detailed presentation on Forth Ports plc and the activities undertaken at the Port of Grangemouth by Duncan Gray, Logistics Project Manager and Gordon Clark, Port Manager.
A view of the container terminal at the Port of Grangemouth.
© Forth Ports plc, 2007
Forth Ports plc is listed on the stock exchange and has its headquarters in Leith. The company has four divisions of which Scottish Ports is the largest. The other divisions are Tilbury, Property and Investment. Tilbury, acquired in 1995, was the first significant investment the company made and took it from being a port operator in Scotland to a major UK port operator.
The Property Division is responsible for the regeneration and redevelopment of old port areas, especially those in Leith, with key projects such as Granton Harbour Village and Ocean Terminal. The level of investment at Granton Harbour Village in excess of £500 million and Ocean Terminal is over £120 million. These projects cover a larger area than Edinburgh New Town. In Scotland, in addition to Grangemouth, the company operates ports at Burntisland, Granton, Kirkcaldy, Leith, Methil and Rosyth on the Forth and also Dundee on Tayside. The annual turnover is in excess of £60 million and more than 550 people are currently employed.
Globally, trade by sea has grown by between 6% and 10% over the last 5 years and that 51% of containers worldwide pass through Asia and China. In terms of current shipping capacity, an additional 46% is on order. There are currently 35 container ships with capacities over 7,500 TEU with another 126 currently on order. Larger vessels mean that there are issues with deep-sea port capacity and in the UK the ports of Southampton and Felixstowe are already at capacity. Growth at European ports has taken them to capacity as well. Once containers have been offloaded, they need to be transported to inland distribution centres and road congestion, especially in the south is a major issue. The rail network also has capacity issues. With distribution centres located in the centre of the UK there are a number of issues, such as land availability, lack of warehouse space and staff shortages. There is also the road transport cost to take into account, as well as legislation and environmental issues.
The Port of Grangemouth today handles 14 container ships a week from other European and UK ports. Conventional bulk cargoes, such as steel and forestry products are handled as are petroleum products and liquefied gas. Covering 656 acres (265 hectares), the port is situated halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow and has a rail connection, with 9' 6" clearance. Although the port is rail connected, most container traffic is road based. The port is only two miles from the central Scotland motorway network. In terms of population, 3 million live within one hour and 10 million are within 4 hours. There are 70 acres available for development.
The Port of Grangemouth provides shippers with comprehensive and flexible services and operates on a 24/7 basis.
© Forth Ports plc, 2007
In 2006 the port handled 8.6 million tonnes of cargo and 140,000 containers. Around 6.5 million tonnes of piped oil and oil products were handled, along with 224,000 tonnes of forestry products, 154,000 tonnes of bulk liquids, 115,000 tonnes of steel and 30,000 tonnes of dry bulk goods. Investment of £25 million over the last two years has enabled the number of containers handled to be increased from 60,000 per annum to 140,000 today, with further expansion planned. As part of the investment, two new container cranes were built and 13 straddle carriers acquired. This has enabled the turn round times of vessels to be reduced significantly by allowing faster loading and unloading. There has also been investment in IT systems and customers can now monitor progress directly.
The majority of the cargo handled by the port is moved by road and there are around 160,000 vehicle movements per annum, each vehicle having an average turnround time of approximately 45 minutes. The port is rail connected and there is one train a day to Grangemouth and trial service to Aberdeen. As part of the ongoing investment, there are plans to develop the rail terminal and this will act as a catalyst to increase port activity. "Reverse" logistics into England offers a number of advantages and avoids the congestion on both the road and rail networks experienced in the south.
During the tour of the port, it was explained that Forth Ports is also the Competent Harbour Authority for the Forth and has state of the art vessel traffic system, provides pilots and is responsible for navigational aids. Members were able to see the various port installations including the LPG terminal and general cargo areas. The opportunity was taken to watch two container ships being unloaded at the main terminal and members saw the cranes and straddle carriers at work. Whilst watching the container ships being unloaded, a gas tanker was observed turning in the basin using it's bow thruster, eliminating the need for tugs. The areas for future development were seen and one of the plans is for a biofuel blending facility to be built. Oilseed rape would be processed at Rosyth and shipped across the Forth to Grangemouth for blending, before being distributed by road and rail.
The Scottish Region would like to thank Duncan Gray and Gordon Clark, Port Manager for their presentation and allowing the Region to visit the port. Further information on Forth Ports plc can be found on their website at www.forthports.co.uk
Report by John Fender.
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