CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

VINDICATION: 'HUGE DOCK EXPANSION'

By Gareth Lewis, Business Editor

Southern Daily Echo – 27 September 2006

Hundreds of new jobs are set to be created with a massive new venture at Southampton container port that will see it almost double in capacity by 2010. Costing hundreds of millions of pounds, the plans, which are to be unveiled officially later today, use modern technology to make the most of existing dock land and could create as many as 680 new jobs.

Port director Doug Morrison said:

"This takes Southampton to another level. It makes the port’s place in the maritime sector secure for many years to come.”

Docks bosses hope the move will finally put to rest the ghost of their failed plans for a terminal at Dibden Bay.

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Southampton's container port is set to almost double in capacity, bringing an avalanche of more than 600 new jobs, the Daily Echo can reveal. In one of the most important business developments in the history of the docks, the port will see an investment of hundreds of millions of pounds to increase capacity by 85 percent.

The move equals the scale of the controversial Dibden Bay proposals but using only existing port land in the Western Docks.

Port bosses say the plans "kick Dibden Bay into the long grass" but emphasise that the development remains a long-term goal. In an announcement later today, they will explain how they plan to increase the number of containers handled to 3.7 million every year – level with Britain's biggest container port, Felixstowe.

Fears dismissed

The next generation of 400m-long container ships, which can carry as many as 12,000 containers, will become a familiar sight on Southampton Water once the work is completed in 2010. After the £600m Dibden Bay plan was rejected on environmental grounds, port owner Associated British Ports is emphasising the sustainability of its proposals.

Fears that the increase in container numbers would see as many as 6,000 extra lorries each day – four every minute – were dismissed by ABP. Instead the port giant, which was taken over by a consortium of foreign financiers in a £2.8 billion deal earlier this year, aims to send many of them out of the city by water on small feeder ships.

Bosses hope that the massive expansion will also persuade the government to upgrade the railway from the port, which has bridges too small to fit the latest generation of containers. Technological advances mean that containers can be stacked higher so the port can fit more on to a similar footprint of land. The plans follow a major business win from rival Thamesport, which saw Southampton sign a deal to receive 250,000 extra containers annually and raised the prospect of the container port being full to capacity within a few years.

When complete, Southampton will move up from being Britain's second largest container port to be level with Felixstowe, which has claimed top place for many years. However, even at 3.7 million containers it will still be dwarfed by foreign trade giants such as Singapore, which handles a massive 22.28 million containers annually.

The exact scale of the investment from ABP is unclear but Southampton port director Doug Morrison said that it would be "in the hundreds of millions rather than tens of millions". The number of new jobs to be created is also not known but if recruitment followed the level of business expansion, the final figure could be as high as 680, with many thousands of other new jobs created in businesses dependent on the port.

Containers and the ships that carry them are the lifeblood of the global economy and Southampton is set to become one of the main arteries for this international trade ...                 

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'NO BUSINESS CAN AFFORD TO STAND STILL – WE HAVE TO MOVE ON'

Southern Daily Echo – 27 September 2006

Southampton port director Doug Morrison says:

"Southampton had a blow, a knockout, with the Dibden Bay decision. It has taken us a long time to come to terms with it and prepare something else that means Southampton's place in the marine sector remains secure for many years to come. Dibden Bay is something that in 20 or 30 or 40 years from now there might be a use for it – who knows? Let's use it as a legacy for the future. If I am living in Hythe Marina, I would be seeing this as a positive because we are not building on Dibden.

"The chances of ABP spending hundreds of millions of pounds on this and then putting in a Dibden part two application are incredibly remote.

"We have moved on a long way since the Dibden Bay was first thought about and the world of container handling has moved on a lot too. We can do a lot more stacking and that's one of the reasons why without increasing the footprint greatly, we can still increase capacity significantly.

"We are saying ours is one of the most sustainable developments in the country. We don't have to reclaim any land we are just making best use of existing facilities. We are not building a new quay or anything like that. We want to see more of the containers going out of Southampton by sea. We are all environmentalists here, everyone, and we don't want to see it all going by road. At the moment very little of it goes by sea, it's in single figures in percentages. It is an 85 percent increase in business so there could be a corresponding increase in the number of jobs. We don't know yet. But it is not just direct employment, it is all the secondary companies, the agents and the hauliers and others. It's jobs for them too.

"There is tremendous excitement about this here. People are saying thank God you are doing something, that there's enthusiasm and that we are working to grow the business. No business can afford to stand still, to sit back and say we are quite happy as we are, because if you do you'll find yourself going backwards."

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'DIBDEN PROTESTERS WELCOME NEWS'

Southern Daily Echo – 27 September 2006

The announcement by ABP was today welcomed by Paul Vickers, chairman of campaign group Residents Against Dibden Bay Port. He said:

"We are very pleased to see they have developed a plan along the lines we suggested at the public inquiry. As in politics, you can never say never; but realistically, from either a financial or common sense viewpoint, Dibden Bay cannot be justified.

“We were always of the opinion that, with correct management of current port facilities, Dibden Bay was not necessary. We could never understand the logic of it. We support an expansion plan along the lines of what is now taking place. We feel quite vindicated.

"This, from our point of view, makes us feel that Dibden Bay is now far in the future as a debating point and we are very pleased."