A premier port of call

Measuring 2.6 square miles and bordering the Spanish region of La Linea, the importance of Gibraltar has been recognised for centuries. Home to over 33,000 residents, it is positioned where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean join, resulting in close geographical proximity between Europe and Africa. This strategic location has made Gibraltar ideally placed to provide a wide range of services to vessels of all sizes and types. With approximately 60,000 vessels transiting the Strait of Gibraltar each year, the Rock has developed into a maritime ‘Centre of Excellence’ and the largest bunkering port in the Mediterranean.

“When we spoke last year, we were coming off the back of a very successful 2015,” begins Captain and Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Gibraltar, Commodore Bob Sanguinetti, “and I am pleased to say that 2016 was another year of strong growth, one that has been followed by a good first half of 2017. In that time, we have been able to retain our leading position in regards to bunkering by completing a number of projects to increase and improve the bunkering infrastructure for the delivery of fuels to vessels, and for the accommodation of increasing numbers of small coasters and superyachts.

“We are currently witnessing a rolling programme that is focused on the replacement of bunker barges, introducing more modern and larger capacity barges. For our part, we work closely with the bunker suppliers to ensure that they approach such programmes in a measured way so that it ultimately leads to an increase in activity, something which has proven to be very effective as we move towards our third successive year of growth.”

The enduring success of the Port of Gibraltar is intrinsically linked to its location, positioned as it is in such close proximity to some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Equally as important, however, as Bob explains, are the relationships the Port Authority has formed over the decades that it has been supporting the shipping community. “The relationships we have with the port community are very much personal as well as professional, and we use this to pull together all of the service providers here to deliver the best possible solutions for vessels coming into Gibraltar. Whether said services involve bunkering, the provision of stores or spares, crew changes or hull cleaning, the end goal is to bring these together in order to minimise the time a vessel needs to spend in the port, and that is something we take great pride in being able to do efficiently and safely.”

As its business has continued to prosper, so too have the efforts of the Port Authority in modernising and expanding the port infrastructure to accommodate its increasing number of visitors. “We have been working diligently with bunker suppliers in order to increase capacity and sustain the growth that we have experienced in recent years,” Bob states. “Gibraltar also saw a ten per cent increase in cruise calls in 2016 compared to 2015, and an increase in visits from superyachts of approximately 24 per cent in the same period. In parallel with this we have commissioned a series of new deep water berths for superyachts to accommodate the near threefold increase in the number of nights spent in Gibraltar as yachts take advantage of the facilities we have to offer.”

June 2017 also saw the Port of Gibraltar play host to its largest ever visitor, the container ship TRITON. Built in 2016, TRITON measures 369 metres in length with the capacity to carry over 14,000 containers with a displacement of 155,000 tonnes. “While the visit of TRITON was a landmark moment in terms of the size of the vessel in question, we treated its arrival as business as usual,” Bob reveals. “Working closely with the bunker supplier in question in order to facilitate their needs, the smooth passage of the vessel through the port again highlights our flexibility, our versatility and our ability to accommodate vessels of all shapes and sizes.

“At the same time, we continue to move closer to the relocation of our port office, which is programmed to occur towards the end of 2017. We will be moving the office to a purpose-built site at the southern end of the Rock, one with commanding views over the Bay of Gibraltar and the entry point to the Strait. This will be underpinned by the commissioning of a new vessel traffic service (VTS) system. This state-of-the-art system will allow our team to ensure the highest of safety standards are maintained in our busy waters.”

In November 2016, the Port Authority was proud to host the annual International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) convention, welcoming over 100 delegates from more than 20 countries. This opportunity to showcase Gibraltar’s position among the world’s leading bunker ports, and its wide range of associated services, was invaluable. In the coming months, it will follow this up with participation in London International Shipping Week in September 2017, where it will host a shipping breakfast, the Posidonia Shipping Exhibition in Greece, in June 2018, and several visits to Northern Europe where it will engage with the local shipping community.

“Gibraltar’s location means that we will always be of vital importance to the shipping community,” Bob adds. “In order for the Port of Gibraltar to consolidate and build upon its recent gains we need to ensure that we continue to engage with ship owners and operators, particularly as they themselves transition through events such as the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and the introduction of the global sulphur cap in 2020. By doing so we will work to reinforce the fact that we will remain best placed to meet changing and emerging vessel requirements, while retaining our position as the region’s premier bunker port.”

Port of Gibraltar
A maritime ‘Centre of Excellence’
Largest bunkering port in the Mediterranean
Welcomed its largest ship in June 2017