Peel Ports has boosted its Liverpool-Manchester barge service and port infrastructure at Irlam Container Terminal with a new coaster vessel and mobile crane.
The arrival of the 160 TEU vessel Monica and a 40 tonne Liebherr mobile crane follows strong growth in Peel Ports' barge service operating between Port of Liverpool and Manchester via the Manchester Ship Canal.
The service has grown from handling 3,000 containers in 2009 to an expected 15,000 this year – a five-fold increase.
The "Monica" will be deployed on the existing thrice-weekly service between Liverpool and Irlam Container Terminal, on the outskirts of Manchester. Additionally, the vessel will enable the service to call more regularly at Ellesmere Port, which was added as a new destination to the service earlier this year.
The new Liebherr crane, complete with two spreader frames, arrived from Austria and was assembled at Irlam Container Terminal.
Stephen Carr, head of business development for Peel Ports Mersey, said: "The spectacular growth in demand for the barge service over the last two years has enabled us to invest in this next level of capability.
"Whilst the existing barge has served us well, the capability and flexibility offered by the new vessel and crane will enable us to better meet the growing demands of retailers, fast moving consumer goods and industrial goods manufacturers and shipping lines alike.
"Over the last year, we have already invested in upgrading the terminal to International Ship and Port Facility Security standards and the terminal operating system that is linked to Liverpool via the Maritime Cargo Processing Destin8 community system allowing containers to be routed directly to Manchester. This new investment delivers the next phase of improvements in the quality of this service."
Currently 90% of deep sea containers arrive in the UK through ports in the South East whilst over 50% of demand is in the Northern half of the UK, resulting in additional strain on the UK's road and rail network. Last year Peel Ports published its draft Mersey Ports Master Plan, which highlighted its intention to invest in infrastructure that will enable much of this cargo to divert through the Port of Liverpool and to develop distribution centres along the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal.