Investing in excellence

With a constant stream of developments and improvements underway at award-winning company Solent Stevedores, every day is seen as an opportunity to extend its services, expand its offering and find new ways to enhance its customer relationships.

Currently operating from terminals at the Port of Southampton, Port of Immingham, Port of Jersey, DP World London Gateway, London Silvertown and Marina Bay, Singapore, Solent Stevedores provides a broad range of bulk and general cargo handling and storage services, as well as Cruise Vessel Support services at the Port of Southampton.

With regard to this latter area of expertise, in recent years Solent Stevedores’ cruise business has grown significantly and the company now handles 86 per cent of the cruise vessels calling to the Port of Southampton – northern Europe’s busiest turnaround port. In 2019, it is expected that Solent Stevedores will provide in-port services to over 425 cruise ships, 1.8 million cruise passengers, handle 2.7 million suitcases, and load in excess of 100,000 tonnes of ships’ stores, cementing the company’s position as one of the top cruise stevedoring suppliers globally.

Given the company’s serious credentials in the cruise stevedoring arena, it is understandable why in May 2019, the world’s largest cruise company Carnival Corporation & plc (which includes P&O Cruises and Cunard Line) signed a five- year deal to extend its relationship with Solent Stevedores.

The deal will see the business continue to provide in-port stevedoring and turnaround services to around 300 Carnival Corporation branded ships calling at the Port of Southampton each year until 2024, further establishing the company’s reputation as a leading service provider in the cruise industry.

The services provided will include mooring, baggage handling, porterage and loading of ships stores and provisions to the vessels. In addition, the deal will incorporate the arrival of P&O Cruises new LNG-powered ship Iona, launching in May 2020, the sister ship (yet to be named) in 2022, as well as Cunard’s new ship (yet to be named) in 2023.

Carnival UK’s commitment to Solent Stevedores can be seen as a huge vote of confidence to the team, and as Tom Dynes, Operations Director at Solent Stevedores also noted, it reinforces the company’s strategy to invest in new equipment, in order to be ready to meet the needs of the cruise ships of the future. “We are also pleased to be continuing our significant re-investment in the business, including low emission handling equipment,” he said, adding: “Carnival UK has been a fantastic partner to do business with over the last nine years and we are very much looking forward to this excellent relationship continuing.”

Tom mentioned low emission handling equipment and he was referring to 33 fully electric counter balance fork lift trucks from STILL Materials Handling, which were delivered in January 2019. The fully electric, next generation fork lift trucks are equipped with the latest safety technology, as well as with additional driver enhancements designed to improve comfort and reduce driver fatigue. This £1 million investment by Solent Stevedores will help to ensure that the company can maintain its excellent level of service delivery and reliability as record growth in cruise at the Port of Southampton continues. As Tom noted, the purchase was made to further improve safety for operators, increase efficiency for customers and reduce emissions. “Keeping our employees safe is paramount, and the new safety features on the RX-20 are industry-leading,” he said. “Our staff pride themselves on providing the highest level of customer service and by investing in the best equipment, we hope to further improve efficiency whilst the exciting growth of cruise at the Port of Southampton continues.

“We also continue to work closely with ABP to further reduce the amount of emissions generated by our port operations and we are proud to have an entire fleet of 100 per cent electric fork lift trucks operating across all four cruise terminals.”

While cruise is clearly a significant component of the overall makeup of comSolent Stevedores, the company is also an expert in handling both one off and regular shipments of dry bulk, fresh produce, project and general cargo. Another recent investment, this time on the Cargo Handling side of the business, is again improving efficiency, this time at the Silvertown refinery.

For a bit of background on this particular facility and its operations, Solent Stevedores was the preferred bidder in January 2008 for the contract to unload over 1.2 million tonnes of raw cane sugar per annum at the Tate & Lyle Sugars sugar refinery at Silvertown, London. Described by Tate & Lyle Sugars as having ‘re-invigorated our port operations and brought both world class solutions and best practice to our business’, the already exceptional services provided by Solent Stevedores were further enhanced in May 2019, with the arrival of a new CAT 953K Track Loader, at a cost of over £160,000. One of the key factors determining this purchase surrounded the lift restrictions which are governed by the two quay side cranes. Working in partnership with CAT, the overall weight of the machine was reduced with the removal of some non-essential parts, and this brought the overall weight within the required weight limits. The Track Loader will be lowered into the vessel holds to assist in moving and consolidating the sugar cargo to support the crane grab at discharge.

Forming one small part of the overall investment in new equipment made by Solent Stevedores in 2019, the Track Loader can still be used to not only represent the company’s dedication to efficiency and continuous improvement, but also illustrate how Solent Stevedores is always prepared to work that bit harder to go the extra mile when needed.

Overall, 2019 has been another exciting year of developments for Solent Stevedores, adding to the success of 2018, which saw the completion of a £5 million upgrade to its rail terminal at the Port of Southampton, and the opening of a new empty container handling yard at DP World London Gateway. As the company heads into its 20th year of operation in 2020, it has clearly established itself as a premier cargo and storage handler in the UK, and a shining example of how prioritising excellence not only builds a strong business, but also creates a reputation to which other companies can only aspire.

Solent Stevedores
• New five-year deal signed with world’s largest cruise line
• Extensions made to the rail terminal to accommodate longer trains
• Celebrates 20 years in business in 2020