First port of call

One of the most prominent ports on the West Coast of the United Kingdom, the Port of Milford Haven is located in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the only Coastal National Park in Great Britain. Offering key strategic advantages (including proximity to Atlantic trade routes and no lock restrictions) the port is a key driver of economic activity in Pembrokeshire, attracting inward investment and supporting over 4000 jobs.

As a trust port (an independent, commercially run organisation that has statutory responsibilities governed by its Acts, to maintain and improve navigation and the provision of Port and Harbour services and facilities) the Port of Milford Haven is continuously looking to improve services, invest in facilities and explore new avenues for development. Plans currently on the agenda include the Milford Waterfront Development, Renewable Energy Initiatives and the Swansea Bay City Deal.

Milford Haven Port Authority (MHPA) is the statutory harbour authority for the Port of Milford Haven, and as Andy Jones, the MHPA interim CEO explained, 2018 saw some important progress in the schemes underway in Pembrokeshire. “It’s been a busy year!” he began. “We’ve seen our flagship Milford Waterfront Development take a big step forward with the County Council’s unanimous approval for the updated plans to make Milford Haven a major visitor destination for high quality retail, leisure and discovery of our wonderful coastline and waters. This is a big project for us, of course. The estimated 400,000 additional visitors that will be attracted here on completion are expected to generate £9m of expenditure for Milford Haven alone and it is a significant project for the whole of Pembrokeshire.”

Andy went on to give a small taste of the upcoming £122m wider investment in the Waterfront project, which involves the installation of four new floating hotel cabins in the Marina, an all-weather leisure facility, and a hotel and fish restaurant. “We have also created a new visitor centre at the gateway to Milford Waterfront. Connected to the wonderful Milford Museum, the centre will be a first port of call for tourists, locals and visitors wanting to find out more about the upcoming development,” he said. “We have also launched an undercover tourist boat service that operates heritage, discovery and wildlife trips out of Milford Marina to the coast and upriver along the historic Cleddau Estuary.”

As part of its operations, the Port of Milford Haven owns and manages Pembroke Port and Milford Dock. Activities such as cargo handling, ferry operations, fish landing and cruise calls as well as a first-class marina are spread across these two sites. While the tourist side of the port’s development cannot be underestimated, Milford Haven is also widely recognised in the industry as the energy capital of the UK, handling around 20 per cent of Britain’s seaborne trade in oil and gas. The Port currently serves the Valero Refinery and Valero Pembrokeshire Oil Terminal, Puma Energy, South Hook LNG and Dragon LNG, and Andy noted that several further significant investment decisions were undertaken in 2018, from both current site operators and new arrivals. “Valero Pembroke Refinery is going to invest £127m in a cogeneration 45MW facility that will generate all the power it requires. This represents a massive vote of confidence by the Texas-based company in the future of refining here in West Wales and ensures the UK’s energy port will continue to move oil-based products for years to come,” he said.

“In the marine renewables sector, Australian firm Bombora Wave Power, which has its European base in Pembroke Port, has secured £10.3m funding from the European Regional Development Fund. The funding will support the design and testing of a fully-submerged membrane-style wave energy convertor capable of generating large amounts of electricity – paving the way for the developers to construct and commercialise the technology from its Pembroke Port base. The £15m project is expected to create up to 20 skilled jobs in South West Wales, supporting the local economy and creating opportunities for communities in Pembrokeshire.”

This latter announcement reinforces Pembroke Port’s importance as a hub for marine renewable technology development and testing, and Andy noted that further important steps have been taken this year, in what is referred to as the Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM) project. “The META (Marine Energy Test Area) part of the wider project, that would see several sites on the waterway and nearby coastal areas given consents to test prototype devices, has entered the public consultation and screening stages of planning. The Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone, a 90sqm offshore area where test devices will be able to generate and export up to a total of 100MW, has also entered into the Environmental Impact Assessment stage of planning. Work continues to finalise the details of the Swansea Bay City Deal funding needed to complete much of the investment in Pembroke Port as part of the overall project.

“2019 should hopefully see rapid progress through the planning stages for both META and PDZ towards permitting, allowing the PDM project partners to ‘go live’ in attracting developers from across the world to test their devices here.”

Alongside its energy operations, Pembroke Dock is also an important centre for freight and 2018 saw a rise in freight passing through the ferry terminal. “The cumulative number of freight units climbed by 3000 from where it was in 2017, despite a slow start to this year caused by severe weather,” Andy stated. “Trade through the Port is always a good indicator of the relative health of the regional economies of both Ireland and the UK, so busy ports are good news for our nation, too. Growth is linked to the resilience of the Irish Ferries service out of Pembroke Port and the protected waters we have here, which ensure our services operate where other west coast services cannot.”

From speaking to Andy it is clear that 2018 was jam packed with exciting developments on both a large and smaller scale (for example, the Port also launched tug training courses at a new high-tech navigation simulator suite in Milford Docks). As 2019 begins, the focus will remain on progressing the Milford Waterfront destination project, finalising the Pembroke Dock Marine bid, and developing new markets for Pembroke Port as a cargo, heavy lift and coaster transport hub. “We will always continue to support investment into the Waterway for the hundreds of businesses and surrounding communities that rely on a busy, working port here in Pembrokeshire,” Andy emphasised.

He concluded with his vision of Milford Haven in five years’ time: “Our marine business will continue to operate efficiently, keeping the UK’s energy port moving and ensuring a third of the UK’s seaborne gas and a quarter of its oil-based products keep flowing.

“Milford Waterfront will be one of the most talked about new tourist destinations in Wales, attracting around 400,000 visitors each year to its exciting range of restaurants, hotels, shops and surrounding attractions.

“More wave and tidal energy firms will have taken up premises at Pembroke Port where they will be developing devices and testing them in the Waterway. The first few devices that have made it to full-scale trials will be generating electricity from wave power off the Pembrokeshire coast. Fabricators will be using new heavy lift and launch facilities on the quayside of Pembroke Port to launch new devices and to ship out completed products around the world.

“Ferry services between Britain and Ireland through South Wales’ busiest terminal will continue to provide a seamless link in trade between the EU and the UK, with the memories of Brexit uncertainty fading into the distant past!”

Port of Milford Haven
Major investments in a variety of projects
Floating hotel cabins launched at Milford Waterfront
Centre of development for renewable energy technology