Port of Lowestoft ‘can bring new era of prosperity to town’

Andrew Harston of Associated British Ports.

Andrew Harston of Associated British Ports. - Credit: James Bass

For some people, the vision of boats docking in a harbour might seem to belong to a bygone age – but Andrew Harston – the short sea ports director for Associated British Ports (ABP) – believes Lowestoft’s port can be a crucial part of the area’s future.

The Port of Lowestoft dates back to 1831 and became associated with the town’s huge fishing industry which grew over the following years.

It was also home to massive engineering and shipbuilding companies, such as Brooke Marine and Richards, as well as a naval base during the two world wars.

But in recent times the old industries, although still very much alive, have declined from their heyday.

It has become a centre for oil and gas industries in the North Sea but some, including the businessman Peter Colby and former Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, have claimed it is a shadow of what it used to be.

Mr Harston – whose role is managing ABP’s smaller ‘short sea’ ports across the country, including Felixstowe and King’s Lynn – admitted: “In Lowestoft, the port is much smaller nowadays than it used to be.”

However, he said that the work going on to promote the port was as busy as ever. “Most people walking by, observe the activities and think about what’s going on in the port sometimes,” he said.

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“It is incumbent on us to explain what we do and the activities we’re involved in.”

Mr Harston, who has been in the role March 2014, added: “A port doesn’t make anything. It can’t make trade – it can only ever be a conduit for trade and serve the businesses that come through the port.

“We’re trying to demonstrate that the benefit of being in Lowestoft is not just about the location but the services supplied by companies in and around the port.”

Mr Harston said that at the moment, 1,100 jobs are supported by the port of Lowestoft. That figure has been disputed by politicians such as Mr Blizzard, but Mr Harston said the figure had been produced by engineering consultants Arup.

He also clarified that they were not roles directly employed by ABP but jobs in private companies which rely on the port for their business.

Yet he believes that with the growth in the offshore wind industry and the announcement that Lowestoft will be the long-term operational base for the East Anglia ONE windfarm, means that “there is a sense of anticipation and it is incumbent on all of us to try and turn that anticipation into a reality.

“Lowestoft has to capture that opportunity.”