Investing in the future

The port of Southampton plays a vital role in the UK’s maritime environment, with its location making it the first and last deep-sea port of call in Northern Europe for the Far East. The port offers a sheltered location, first-class road and rail distribution links to the Midlands and market-leading service and productivity. It plays a front line role in global trade and the supply chain; and in recognition of this, the port’s owner Associated British Ports (ABP) and joint venture partner in DP World Southampton, have launched a £150m investment project at the port, as part of a plan that will create the capability to handle the largest container vessels and provide the terminal with the capacity to grow its throughput in line with customer demand.

At the heart of this development is the merger of berths 201/202 at the container terminal in a milestone project that will create a new berth to be called SCT 5. This is required to enable the container terminal to service four of the next generation of ultra-large container carriers (ULCCs) simultaneously. Ultralarge 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. The new berth also forms a key part of ABP’s ambitious plans to increase the handling capacity of the port up to 2.7 million TEU a year. The works are due for completion by December 2013 with the berth being operational in January 2014.

In addition to the new berth, this multi-million pound project comprises several other different elements, including deepening works, dredging and state-of-the- art gantry cranes. Southampton port director Doug Morrison gave some more details on these areas: “Firstly we have the quay works to strengthen the existing wall before we can attempt the deepening works. This is progressing well with the wall to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year. Then there is the dredging itself, which is split into several components from the docks through to the approach channel. We have almost finished the first stage of this around the berths to deepen these to 16-metres, and hope to begin the second phase shortly. The bulk of this work is concentrated on the main navigational channel, and will be implemented in stages.”

The dredging process includes widening works at Marchwood, with permission granted as recently as February 2013 to also dredge in Southampton Water and the Solent. Referred to as the Southampton Approach Channel Dredge (SACD), this will see various sections of the navigation channel deepened and widened to enable the passage of larger, deeper-draughted vessels simultaneously. The work will see the main navigational channel used by commercial shipping deepened from a current minimum depth of 12.6m, at various points along its length of 25 nautical miles.

Although Southampton already benefits from a wide access window thanks to its unique double tide, this work will increase this even further for the very largest vessels. “It is clear that vessels are generally increasing in size, and we need to react to this change. By deepening and widening the channel we can allow ships to call more frequently, and to load to the maximum draft on arrival and departure. It will also reduce congestion in the approaches to the port by increasing the ability for vessels to pass in the channel without restrictions,” describes Doug.

As another 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. ABP has placed a £26m order with Liebherr to manufacture new gantry cranes, which will be capable of taking on the largest vessels currently at sea,and those are under production. “These will arrive in September 2013, and then the cranes have to be constructed on the quay wall and installed. This needs to go hand-in-hand with the completion of the quay works. As such, from January 2014 we hope to be able to accept ships into the new berth. The main channel dredge will be completed some time after due to the need to carry out sediment monitoring for up to six months, and other processes,” explains Doug. For live updates on the construction of the new berth, you can follow @makesmoresenseon Twitter.

Productivity at DP World Southampton is currently at a record high, land side and shipside, thanks to a team of employees who are keen to see the terminal become the best in Western Europe. Southampton provides a consistent and reliable crane rate across all vessel sizes not just the biggest ships. It has the highest average rate of any UK port and is among the top European ports.

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 its customers in anew 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.

Doug is particularly proud of the leaps in productivity that the port has seen,which puts it ahead of much of the rest of the country. “Our focus for 2013 is not very different to what it was in 2012 or what it will be in 2014,” he reveals. “We have performed exceptionally well in the last few years despite the recession with Southampton seeing dramatic growth in vehicle movements and the cruise business. Both of these sectors have further opportunities for growth, and of course with our major investment programme we firmly believe in the long-term container business.”

Associated British Ports
£150 million redevelopment of container terminal
Plans to increase capacity to 2.7 million TEU per annum
Creating fourth ULCC berth 1.87km of deepwater quay, with up to 16 metres depth alongside
16 quayside gantry cranes with super post panamax capacity