Port ready for first container

GREAT Yarmouth's outer harbour is getting set to welcome its first container ship with a promise from bosses at Eastport that the �30m scheme will not be a white elephant.

GREAT Yarmouth's outer harbour is getting set to welcome its first container ship with a promise from bosses at Eastport that the �30m scheme will not be a white elephant.

Final preparation works are in place with a dredger working to clear the port ahead of the expected arrival of the first vessel.

Eddie Freeman, chief executive of Eastport UK, said the finishing touches were being carried out to get the port ship-shape with hopes high the first shipment will arrive in the next few weeks, though he would not be drawn on the details of where the first vessel would be coming from.

Mr Freeman also scotched suggestions that the dredger was brought in because of problems with the harbour structure and he also dismissed speculation the port's two cranes were up for sale.

“We are talking to several people and we have got somebody who has shown substantial interest,” he said. “It's going in the right direction. The contractors are all being demobilised and the dredger is all part and parcel of that final tidying up process - there's no chance of the port sinking!

“Great Yarmouth will never be a white elephant,” Mr Freeman added. “We have all the makings of a good port infrastructure, we have good water, good communications, we are competitive and modern and we have a great culture here.”

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Some critics have complained that the port will not create the numbers of jobs in the town as originally promised, and the focus has shifted away from a Roll-on Roll-off (Ro-Ro) ferry terminal.

But Mr Freeman, who this week was in Aberdeen seeking to attract more firms to do business at the port, said though the market conditions were difficult, he had not given up on the ferry link.

“I have given myself a five-year window and we are two years into that,” he said. “I would be desperately disappointed if we did not have a Ro-Ro service within that five-year window.”

But he added the port's location and last week's announcement of a new offshore windfarm off the Yarmouth and Lowestoft meant it was perfectly placed to tap into the renewable energy market.

“What we have got to do now is get Norfolk into exploring the offshore market, there is a huge opportunity.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with the ports and shipping publication Lloyds List, Peter Hambly, the port's general manager said while the start-up operation of the port has been scaled back he was hoping that this month would see the arrival of the first ships.

“January is a milestone for us and we are very hopeful that we will have our first vessel call,” said Mr Hambly “We are currently in extended and detailed talks with one particular shipping line and there is a provisional agreement that it will make a call sometime in January.”

Mr Hambly said the port had budgeted for 31,000 containers in 2010 and had slowed down its expansion plan in favour of a phased approach.

“The discussions are ongoing and I believe that there are three or four shipping lines in particular that would be well suited to calling at Great Yarmouth,” he said. “The 2008 downturn made us stop and reflect on utilising an existing yard area that gives us a quick and low-cost start-up option, which is what we have exercised as part of our lease arrangements with Great Yarmouth Port Co.

“The key is to get our first customer, and for them to establish a customer base and thus critical mass,” said Mr Hambly. “Once you achieve that, then this very quickly becomes a viable container option.”

To see the shipping arriving at the port, click on the box “Track Gt Yarmouth Boats Online” on the right hand side of this page.