EastPort accused of a ‘PR disaster’

EASTPORT has been accused of a “huge PR disaster” after it turned its back on a deal that would have seen the outer harbour’s container cranes used for the first time.

The �7m cranes at the port’s PSA quay were seen as a symbol of the port’s exciting future when they were delivered in May last year, but they have remained idle ever since with EastPort bosses blaming the tough economic climate.

However, freight firm Panalpina, which has an office in Great Yarmouth, was proposing to use the cranes last Monday to load more than 90 40ft containers and 10 20ft containers containing the parts of a power station destined for West Africa.

The previous week more than 30 lorries had brought the containers to the quayside in Yarmouth from a Suffolk warehouse.

But only four days before the scheduled arrival of the ship Socol 4 to pick up the containers, the agreement with EastPort broke down and Panalpina’s strategic development manager Mark Woodhouse was asked to find another port.

Mr Woodhouse, based in Aberdeen, described it as a “frustrating experience”.

He said: “I first discussed the shipment with EastPort about six weeks ago. All I can say is that for operational reasons we had to move it to Ipswich. We don’t know the reasons.

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“This would have been a great opportunity for positive publicity.”

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: “The outer harbour is potentially the key to unlocking enormous economic growth not only for Yarmouth but Norfolk as well. I hope that is not being stilted by EastPort making short-sighted decisions.”

And the town’s former MP Tony Wright said: “This is a huge PR disaster for EastPort and it raises major concerns about the direction of the port.”

The embarrassment had been compounded by the saga featuring in the internal shipping journal Lloyd’s List this week.

It is understood the Panalpina deal was struck with EastPort and a sub-contract with PSA (Great Yarmouth) would have allowed the cranes to be used. Eddie Freeman, chief executive of EastPort, declined to comment as did Peter Hambly, general manager for PSA (Great Yarmouth).