Hard Brexit preparations detailed on the Humber as PM's Brexit vote looms
Henrik Pedersen, chief executive of ABP and Andrew Byrne, managing director of DFDS Seaways Plc are prepared.
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 15 Jan 2019
Immingham’s exact role in a potential hard Brexit can now be revealed as shipping giant DFDS firms up its plans to deliver on a £42 million Government contract.
Five additional sailings on two existing European routes have been prepared, bringing an immediate 10 per cent capacity increase.
The services, four to and from Rotterdam in Holland and one with Cuxhaven, Germany, will provide an ability to bring in 800 extra trailers as the worst-case scenario of hold ups hampering vital supplies getting through is addressed.
Staff are also being encouraged not to take leave a fortnight either side of the March 29 EU exit date as bosses ensure the majority of the 1,000 strong team are available.
“We have agreed to provide, if required and requested, extra sailings,” Andrew Byrne, pictured below, the Immingham-based managing director of DFDS Seaways Plc said.
“We are using existing vessels where we currently have gaps in the sailing schedule. We are filling in the spaces.”
While there are no immediate recruitment plans, the potential has been outlined.
“We think the majority of it can be handled with our existing manpower,” he said. “It may be, if it were to happen and it gets up to speed and is full-on and flat-out, we may need to get a few more people in, but we should be able to use the resources we have to handle it. We have encouraged staff not to take leave from the middle of March to the middle of April. We need to make sure we have the majority of people here to see it through.”
The Rotterdam route could handle an extra 600 trailers a week, with Cuxhaven a further 200, putting weekly figures up from 7,500 to 8,300.
It is also hoped the attention may serve as a strong advocate of northern port usage, with DFDS a significant contributor to the Liverpool Humber Optimisation of Freight Transport project, a joint industry and academic collaboration.
The primary aim is to address the fact that 50 per cent of manufacturing is in the north; 50 per cent of the population is in the north and 50 per cent of warehousing is in the north, yet 90 per cent of container ro-ro and 75 per cent of all container traffic goes through southern ports.
Mr Byrne said: “We have been speaking to customers who don’t use northern ports to say ‘we are open for business, try putting your traffic through us’.
“If it comes to it and they are forced, they may find it fits their business model well. It is an opportunity for us to prove the Humber ports provide a central base for a lot of traffic that doesn’t currently utilise them today.”
DFDS is also providing additional services on the Felixtowe - Rotterdam route, and it is the same clutch of contracts issued on Christmas Eve that includes the controversial start-up Seaborne Freight, as well as Brittany Ferries on southern routes.
The region’s ports are already seeing an increase in traffic, partly due to Brexit, as shipping companies look for alternatives to Dover.
It was estimated last year that as much as a fifth of container trade could move to alternative crossings, if a no-deal Brexit caused chaos at the southern docks.
Ahead of Theresa May’s first Brexit deal vote in parliament, the head of Associated British Ports has said Humber ports such as Immingham, Hull and Grimsby are already seeing an increase in volume.
Henrik Pedersen, pictured below, chief executive at ABP, said: “For ABP, ‘keeping Britain trading’ is a responsibility that we are passionately committed to.
“We are continuing to invest in our people, equipment and capability, so that we have the flexibility and resilience we need to help UK trade to flow and grow.
“We have already seen volumes begin to rise at our ports on the Humber as customers look for alternatives to Dover. Our ports have been operating to world-class standards for many years, we have proved that we are ready to handle new customers’ requirements.
"We want to send a strong message that ABP stands ready to keep Britain trading through Brexit, and we will continue to invest to drive trade and create jobs over the longer term.”
To ensure the Humber’s ports trade smoothly with such increases, ABP is investing more than £100m in its operations.
Major investments include £50m to increase capacity at container terminals in both Hull and Immingham, and £65m to ensure the future of the steel industry on the River Humber.
ABP is also working to support businesses which have become anxious about the event of a no-deal Brexit and the potential severe disruption this may cause at the Port of Dover.
It says container and ferry facilities on the Humber are capable of helping businesses bypass such disruption, providing regular and reliable links to Europe.
More than 70 sailings every week connect the Humber to a number of destinations across Europe, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Poland.