Port of Felixstowe launches year of celebration to mark 50th anniversary of UK’s first container terminal

An aerial view of the Port of Felixstowe taken in July 1967, when the first container facility opene

An aerial view of the Port of Felixstowe taken in July 1967, when the first container facility opened.

The Port of Felixstowe has launched a year of celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first operational container terminal.

Port of Felixstowe chief executive Clemence Cheng with Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey at the open

Port of Felixstowe chief executive Clemence Cheng with Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey at the opening of the Berth 9 extension. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

The facility, originally known as the New South Quay, opened at the port in July 1967 and involved just 500ft of quayside and a single crane.

A series of other “firsts” have followed over the past 50 years, with Felistowe now firmly established as the UK’s largest container port.

Landguard Terminal was completed in the 1970s followed by Trinity Terminal, the UK’s first facility for larger “post-panamax” ships, which was built in phases through the 1980s and 1990s with the final phase completed in 2004.

Growth at the port – part of Hutchison Westports, a member of the EADT/EDP Top 100 – has continued with the most recent phase of development, Berths 8 and 9, being opened in 2011 and extended in 2015.

The newest terminal includes the site of the New South Quay, bringing the story full-circle and ensuring that the largest container ships in the world can now be handled where the very first container ships visited 50 years ago.

The year of celebration was launched Lawrence Yam, commercial director of the Port of Felixstowe, during an event for customers held on Monday this week.

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Clemence Cheng, chief executive of the Port of Felixstowe, said: “From a single-berth operation with one crane we now have nine berths providing over 3,000 metres of deep-water container quay serviced by 33 ship-to-shore gantry cranes.

“The operation today bears no real resemblance to those early years. The scale and level of technical innovation have grown beyond recognition.

“But not everything has changed. Felixstowe was chosen in 1967 because of its proximity to the main shipping lanes and the main ports of northern Europe.

“That remains a key differentiator but the position today has been improved by the development of road and rail links that are second to none,”he added.