Felixstowe: Minister joins port to mark milestone

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin chats to portworkers during his visit to Felixstowe to mark t

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin chats to portworkers during his visit to Felixstowe to mark the handling of its 70millionth container. - Credit: Archant

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin took the controls of a high-rise quayside crane to help Britain’s top container port pass another milestone – the handling of its 70,000,000th box.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Felixstowe port chief executive officer Clemence Cheng.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Felixstowe port chief executive officer Clemence Cheng. - Credit: Archant

The Port of Felixstowe embraced containerisation in the mid-1960s, opening the country’s first purpose-built terminal at Landguard in 1967 and hardly a year has gone by since in which the number of boxes handled has not grown.

Last year 3.7million standard-sized containers were loaded and unloaded, more than 40% of all the boxes moved through the country’s ports.

Mr McLoughlin described his trip to the top of one of the port’s newest cranes on its new £300m south terminal to load the 70millionth box on to the MSC Bettina, one of the world’s largest vessels, as “awesome”.

He said: “I was lucky to be up there on a beautiful day but I am not sure I would want to be in the middle of winter in the wind and rain!”

Mr McLoughlin said the amount of containers handled by Felixstowe was “truly staggering” and testament to its important role by in driving growth.

He said: “Shipping and maritime are big business for the UK – the sector is already worth up to £14bn per year to the economy and, most importantly, it is steadily growing.

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“The Greenwich Meridian makes us, quite literally, the centre of the shipping world and our central time zone means we can do business with both sides of the world in one day. Our rich maritime history, supported by key financial services and a productive partnership between government and industry, has helped make shipping a real success story for Britain – the volume of goods coming through UK ports has tripled in the past ten years.

“It is fitting for Felixstowe to reach this landmark in the run up to London International Shipping Week, when the shipping world’s attention will be focused on us. Shipping is an engine for growth and we want to ensure the UK builds on its position as a global leader.”

Commenting on the port’s achievement, Clemence Cheng, chief executive officer of Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited, owners of the Port of Felixstowe, said: “Passing this latest milestone underlines the Port of Felixstowe’s position as the Port of Britain and highlights its long record of achievement. Felixstowe has been the UK’s leading container port for over 30 years and we have the pleasure of having the Secretary of State for Transport, the Right Honourable Patrick McLoughlin, celebrating this achievement with us today.

“Our continued commitment to investment has ensured that we have the capacity to support the economic growth of this country, and the equipment and operational excellence to provide our customers with a fast and efficient service.”

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP, to Felixstowe as we celebrate this important milestone in the history of our successful port.

“Felixstowe Port is so important for our local economy and as we look to the future we need to ensure that we do all we can to ensure the Port continues to handle many more millions of containers, with more exports too.

“I also took the opportunity to reinforce to the Secretary of State the lack of fairness in singling out the improvements to A14 to require a toll.

“Applying tolling to just one port could have a major impact on business in Suffolk and I urged the Transport Secretary to take this into account when introducing the scheme.”