Felixstowe opens new berths for giant container ships

A look at the new mega-berths

The Port of Felixstowe has formally opened the UK's first shipping berths capable of taking the next generation of giant container ships.

The ships, which are due to arrive in 2013, can carry 18,000 containers.

But they need deeper water to dock, and bigger cranes to be unloaded than are needed for the current biggest ships.

Felixstowe, in Suffolk, says 1,500 new jobs will be created by its expansion plans - 680 directly employed by the port, with another 820 at suppliers.

Import issues

Some 90% of the UK's trade passes through ports. Almost everything we buy that isn't perishable of small and high value comes in on ships.

Felixstowe is the UK's largest container port and deals with more than 40% of our container cargo.

But container ships are getting bigger, and that gives ports a problem.

So Felixstowe has built the only berths in the UK capable of taking the next generation of cargo ships.

The biggest ships in use at the moment can carry around 15,000 containers (TEUs or twenty foot equivalent units) but in 2013 ships capable of carrying 18,000 containers are due to arrive.

The port has dug two deep water berths - numbers 8 and 9 - to accommodate them, as well as bought seven of the world's largest container cranes. These cost £6m each.

"Failure to provide facilities for the new container ships would mean the world's most efficient ships could not dock in the UK, driving up the cost of imports and making UK exports less competitive," said David Gledhill, chief executive of Hutchison Ports UK, which owns the port.

'Essential'

The opening of the two new berths is the first stage of a £1bn investment programme.

The next generation container ships coming from Asia will only make three or four stops across Northern Europe - and Felixstowe is expecting to be on their calling cards.

"During the last decade many exporters concentrated on the European market, however, economic growth in Europe has slowed considerably, whilst growth in East Asia has accelerated," said John Cridland, director general of the CBI.

"It is therefore essential that the UK is able to export and import goods on a global basis and the expansion at Felixstowe will be a key asset in achieving this."

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