Port of Liverpool operator Peel Ports handled 230,000 shipping movements across all of its UK operations in 2020 – just 1.5% lower than usual despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing members of Mersey Maritime at the organisation’s latest Face-2-Face online event, Peel Ports Group Harbour Master, Gary Doyle, outlined how the company’s UK operations had dealt with one of its biggest challenges in decades.
Peel Ports is the UK’s second-biggest port operator. Its locations include Liverpool, Heysham, Clydeport, London Medway, Great Yarmouth and Manchester Ship Canal. It also has operations at Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.
Gary oversees a team of highly-skilled people ensuring vessels get in and out of ports safely and on time. Around 95% of the goods imported into the UK every year arrive by sea so the smooth operation of the country’s ports is critical in keeping us all supplied with our everyday essentials.
He told the Mersey Maritime audience: “When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit us early last year I don’t think we fully appreciated what was coming. We still had vessels coming in from multiple locations all over the world.
“What we managed to achieve was spectacular and is testimony to the skills of the river pilots and the rest of the team. They work on very tight margins of error and what they have managed to achieve over the past year is amazing.
“Many people played their part and their efforts were pivotal in keeping essential goods such as food and medicines, as well as more routine and industrial cargoes, coming into the country during the pandemic.”
Illustrating the scale of the company’s operations, Gary revealed its UK market share in terms of sea freight was just over 14% and that its ports handled 70m tonnes of freight every year. He added the business had invested around £600m into its port infrastructure over the past 10 years.
In the midst of the pandemic, Peel Ports continued to invest in its operations at the Port of Liverpool. At its deep water container terminal, Liverpool2, Peel is investing £140m in eight new megamax and 22 new cantilever cranes to increase capacity and create 150 new jobs.
“Our throughput at the port is up 80% since 2019 and we are getting better all the time,” added Gary. “In terms of container volumes our team set a new record in January for the number of containers unloaded from a single vessel – MSC Roberta.
“As a result of ongoing investment into the Port of Liverpool, both Maersk and MSC have switched their transatlantic routes from ports in the south of England to Liverpool. And, in November, MSC launched a new five-days-a-week rail freight service connecting the port with the East Midlands.
“With our ongoing investment and recruitment we will continue to offer supply chains a reliable, resilient and competitive international gateway regardless of external pressures such as COVID and Brexit.”
Gary also spoke about Peel Ports’ ongoing efforts to contribute to the UK’s climate change targets by reducing the carbon footprint across its port operations. And he also spoke about the importance of health and safety.
He said: “We are now the safest port operator in the UK. We realised a few years ago that our performance in this area wasn’t what it could be. So we put health and safety right at the top of our agenda and, as a result, we have seen a real cultural change.”