Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Early in January North Sea Port posted a record year for the third year in succession. It was reported that the firms based in the port transhipped 71.4 million tonnes of seaborne cargo, an increase of 1.5%. The growth is mainly due to dry bulk and containers. (Our illustration kindly provided by North Sea Port shows a bulk trade.)
Moreover, the figure of 71.4 million tonnes means North Sea Port has broken the 70 million tonne barrier for the second time. This rise is primarily down to a growth in exports for the third consecutive year (+9.9%). Two years after its launch as a merged port, North Sea Port is maintaining its position as a true bulk gateway and is also making progress as a hub for containers between maritime and inland waterways.
Dry bulk and containers on an upward trajectory
Almost half of the goods that North Sea Port tranships is dry bulk. That volume rose to 34.6 million tonnes last year (+5.4%). Over two years, this segment is up 10%. A strong construction sector again meant increased transhipment of sand, gravel and construction materials in 2019. Coal transhipment – especially for processing industries – and agricultural products remained steady. Scrap and ores showed a small decline.
With very strong growth of 48.7%, container transhipment amounted to a total of 2.5 million tonnes and 330,000 TEU. This segment has doubled in two years. As in previous years, this is the result of attracting new services and an increase in refrigerated containers. North Sea Port is also growing as a hub for onward transport of containers from maritime shipping to the hinterland via inland waterways.
Transhipment of wet bulk fell slightly to 20.1 million tonnes (-2.2%). This decrease was mainly evident in the (petro)chemical sectors, largely due to a maintenance shutdown. However, a sharp increase (+42%) was recorded in the transhipment of biodiesel and vegetable oil.
Transhipment of conventional break bulk cargo totalled 11 million tonnes (-6.6%). Part of this decrease is attributable to fruit because this is increasingly being transported in containers. However, the transhipment of machines is on an upward trend.
Ro/ro fell to 3.2 million tonnes (-9.6%), with a noticeable fall in the number of vehicles and trailers.
Inland navigation gets in on the act
The record-breaking was not confined to transhipment via ocean going vessels – inland navigation also set a new record, with an increase from 58 million to 60 million tonnes (+3.4%).
With transhipment of 71.4 million tonnes via ocean going traffic and 60 million tonnes via inland navigation, North Sea Port achieved a total of 131.4 million tonnes transhipped in 2019 (+2.1%). And this does not include a further 15 to 16 million tonnes of transhipment via pipelines.
Short sea shipping and transatlantic freight traffic
North Sea Port focuses on both European coastal shipping (short sea shipping) and transatlantic freight traffic. The share of short sea shipping within total freight transhipment via maritime services remained at 63%. As in previous years, goods traffic with Europe and North and South America accounted for more than 90% of total cargo transhipped last year (93.5%).
In 2019, North Sea Port released 44 hectares of land.
With a record year behind it and rising freight transhipment in dry bulk and containers, North Sea Port is cautiously optimistic for 2020, as it was in early 2019. A continuation of the current trend of light growth is anticipated. Brexit, shrinking economic growth and (anticipated) trade wars provide reasons for caution.
One of Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani’s last duties before leaving office on 13 February was to make a written statement on Light Dues, the means of financing the marine aids to navigation services of the United Kingdom.
In the document she said: ‘A strong and growing maritime industry is vital to the economy of the United Kingdom and it is critical that we treasure and protect this vital artery if we are to remain a world-leading maritime centre.
‘The work of the General Lighthouse Authorities2, which provide and maintain marine aids to navigation and respond to new wrecks and navigation dangers in some of the busiest waters in the world, is crucial to underpinning that vision whilst maintaining our vigorous safety record and continuously improving standards of safety.
‘Reductions in the three General Lighthouse Authorities’ running costs have enabled the UK to reduce light dues on four occasions since 2014. For 2020 to 2021 I intend to freeze light dues rates at 37½ pence per net registered tonne. This will mean that light dues will have fallen by 30% in real terms since 2010.
‘Light dues rates will continue to be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that the General Lighthouse Authorities are challenged to provide an effective and efficient service which offers value for money to light dues payers.’
New hubs of business and enterprise will be opened across the UK creating thousands of jobs, regenerating communities and turbocharging Britain’s post-Brexit growth, the Government announced on 10 February.
Up to ten new innovative Freeports will be opened across the UK as the Government seeks to level up the country and seize on the opportunities leaving the EU has presented. This was the style of a news item delivered on behalf of HM Treasury.
A consultation has been launched setting out the Government’s vision for Freeports, with the aim of announcing the location of the new zones at the end of this year so they can be open for business in 2021.
It is understood that once the ten-week consultation is completed, the Government will invite sea, air and rail ports to bid for Freeport status on a competitive basis.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak, said: ‘Freeports will unleash the potential in our proud historic ports, boosting and regenerating communities across the UK as we level up. They will attract new businesses, spreading jobs, investment and opportunity to towns and cities up and down the country.
‘This is all part of our mission as an open, outward-looking country, championing global free trade with vibrant Freeports that work for all of the UK.’