With three weeks to go until the £300m Liverpool 2 container terminal is launched to clients, Peel Ports bosses remain confident about its success in the face of wider shipping industry uncertainty.
The terminal in the Mersey was due to open in December 2015, but construction met with delays. Following a series of phased trials in recent months, Peel is set to host a private launch party for shipping lines on 4 November.
However, the opening of the terminal comes at a time of instability for the international shipping container industry, with shipping lines failing and container volumes down. An overabundance of ships coupled with doubts around consumer confidence have led to falling container volumes and shipping rates.
Commenting on the challenges to the market, a spokesman for Peel Ports said: “There is general political and economic uncertainty around various issues, including container shipping rates, shipping line alliances and consolidation, and Brexit.
“One of Peel Ports’ major strengths is that we have a diversified offering across a range of commodity sectors, including containers, bulk and RO-RO. We have also increased our investment in supporting logistics infrastructure, allowing us to offer shippers greater supply chain efficiencies.
“Culturally, we take a long-term approach and our investment strategy is forward-looking in terms of decades rather than years.
“This, combined with our strong presence on both east and west coasts, and a diverse, flexible offering, means that we are very confident about our continued success even if there is prolonged uncertainty and volatility in the UK or global economies.”
The port operator will be hoping the business plan of diverting freight from the South coast of England to the North still has merit, regardless of global fluctuations in demand from a slowing Chinese capacity and shipping overcapacity.
Peel Ports has announced two new shipping line signings to Liverpool this year: WEC Lines and Maersk subsidiary Seago.
Peel Ports is 49% owned by Deutsche Bank’s infrastructure arm, which has an estimated $5bn exposure to shipping container market. Deutsche Bank was recently rumoured to be looking to dispose of $1bn of its shipping debt.
Meanwhile, last week a further six cantilever rail-mounted gantry cranes arrived in the Mersey, completing the installation of cranes required for phase one of the terminal.
Produced by Chinese manufacturer ZPMC, which also supplied the five ship-to-shore cranes and other rail-mounted cranes already on site, these six cranes make up a set of 12 at Liverpool2. Ultimately, the site will have eight ship-to-shore and 22 CRMG cranes, as part of a £100m equipment investment.
Mark Whitworth, chief executive of Peel Ports, said: “These cranes are the final major piece of the infrastructure jigsaw as we approach the formal opening next month
“Liverpool2, supported by our wider logistics offering and the port’s strategic location, will provide many shippers with a route to UK and Irish markets that helps them to cut costs, congestion and carbon emissions.”
The cranes set off from Nantong in August on board the Zhenhua 8 ship, passing south-east Asia, India, the Arabian Peninsula and through the Suez Canal en route to Liverpool in a 49-day journey of over 20,000 km.
The first batch of CRMGs arrived in May 2016 and the STS cranes have been visible on the Liverpool shoreline since November 2015.