New Yarmouth port boss pledges to realise its potential

THE outer harbour’s new boss has revealed ambitions to create jobs and finally realise the port’s potential as he started in the top job this week.

Industry veteran Jamie Frater was announced as the new chief executive of Great Yarmouth Port Company (GYPC) – whose trading name is EastPort UK - on Monday.

And in an exclusive interview with the Mercury he revealed that while offshore is his main focus, he is open to a ferry link-up or talks with shipping lines over becoming a container port.

He said he is determined to bring prosperity to the community, but hopes locals will understand that the road around the peninsula must remain private for “security reasons”.

And while he acknowledged local criticism of the development, he said there is a �31bn offshore sector ripe for local jobs if long-term contracts can be won with energy companies - something he believes can be achieved in the not so distant future.

Mr Frater told the Mercury he is already in talks with companies interested in long-term commitment to Yarmouth.

“We’re already in discussion with the energy sector in terms of land,” he said. “We’re going to meet with prospective companies and plan with them how we can service their next 10 to 20 years of business.

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“We’ve got to enter into long term deals - that then secures our future. We will make a concerted effort in this area.”

Mr Frater replaces Eddie Freeman who quit to “focus on other interests” after five years in the top job - having begun when the port went into private ownership in May 2007.

The deep-water outer harbour became operational in February 2010, and Mr Frater said the groundwork is in place to bring huge investment to Yarmouth, adding: “The effort is commercial - not the structure of the company.”

He said he believes the proposed Local Development Order - which would see planning laws relaxed on the peninsula - would help attract business by giving them the flexibility they want.

And he does not want to be seen as the “big bad wolf”, as providing work for locals is central to his cause.

With one section of the port still to be developed, if the right company signed a long-term contract there could be a huge boost to the town.

Mr Frater stressed offshore is his priority, but said he is open to other options at this stage.

“We’re looking at what our competitors are doing,” he said. “If it makes economic sense and there’s a market for a ferry link up I’m open to it.”

On the issue of container ports, he noted Felixstowe has built a new south terminal and is struggling, and London Gateway would be a big competitor as it is built for containers.

“I don’t want to be servicing cargo types that don’t have a long term future, especially with the outer harbour,” he said. “But if we could get a shipping line that wants an exclusive contract we could do that.”

He is in discussion with his sales and marketing team as to feasibility, and is to reveal a more detailed plan after a month in the job.

Asked about speculation that the outer harbour is causing coastal erosion, Mr Frater said it is misplaced as the development had to pass rigorous environmental testing before it was built.

Mr Frater has 38 years experience in the port industry and was previously CEO for Hutchison Port holdings where he developed and managed holdings in Egypt and Oman.

And he pledged his commitment to Yarmouth, stating: “I’m not looking to move anywhere else now as long as we keep the business moving forward.”

GYPC has not elaborated on the reasons for Mr Freeman’s departure.