There was a welcome boost for the Scottish economy on Saturday 19th June 2010 with the arrival at Grangemouth of the first ship of Unifeeder’s new short sea route service to Europe. The new service will give Scottish exporters direct access not only to the mainland European hubs of Rotterdam and Felixstowe, but will also give access to the rapidly expanding Baltic and Russian markets.
The introduction of the new service is a coup for Grangemouth and its owner Forth Ports. It reflects the continuing recovery of the container trade in Northern Europe and the growing importance of the Scottish port. Container traffic at the port has grown by 150% over the last 10 years with container volumes growing to 150,000 containers per year.
The Danish company Unifeeder is Europe’s largest provider of short-sea container services linking ports across the North Sea and the Baltic with the oceanic hubs of Rotterdam and Hamburg.
The new service will be of particular value to the whisky industry. The sector is a great supporter of the recently modernised terminal of Grangemouth with the spirits trade being a core export cargo .
The MV Veersdijk docked on Saturday morning and will leave for Rotterdam the same day . It is the first of three vessels that will work on 3 new loops .
The wider significance of the Unifeeder service for Grangemouth is the enhancement of the Forth port’s status as a net exporter. The volumes of full containers leaving Grangemouth exceed the those imported, reflecting the port’s vital significance to the Scottish economy as a whole. Reducing the trade deficits has never been more important to Scotland and to the United Kingdom. The quality of the logistical and freight handling facilities at Grangemouth makes a vital contribution to economic recovery. It is estimated that trade through the port represents 17.5% of Scotland’s total GDP.
Nik Scott-Gray, Development Manager at Forth Ports said,
‘The arrival of the first Unifeeder ship is a significant development in our plans for expansion at Grangemouth and it’s a huge opportunity for Scottish exporters. The fast reliable links to Rotterdam and Hamburg mean that Scottish exporters can access Unifeeder’s exceptional network of short sea routes to the Baltic, Germany and Scandinavia. It also means that exporters have direct access to the deep sea hubs of Rotterdam and Hamburg and from there to all the markets of the world.’
‘The Port of Grangemouth is the ideal location in Scotland for container operations due to its excellent congestion free motorway connections allowing vehicles to easily travel east and west as the Port is exactly 26 miles from centre of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Gauge free rail connections are also a major factor and allows the Port to offer the most agile and fuel efficient supply line for Scotland’.
European short sea route volumes are rising despite recessional dips over the past few years. The logic of combining ocean container routes with short sea feeder traffic covers creates both economic and environmental benefits. Economically, the use of hub and feeder systems means that any exporter in Scotland has a direct, cost effective link to customers anywhere in the world.
Environmentally, there are very compelling arguments for moving freight traffic off Europe’s crowded roads on to short sea routes. Researchers conducting an evaluation for the World Economic Forum found that ‘the entire container voyage from China to Europe is equalled in CO2 emissions by about 200 kilometers of long-haul trucking in Europe.’ Fuel efficiency of container ships has improved by 35% between 1985 and 2008. Unifeeder is a key player in the European Union’s ‘Motorways of the Sea’ programme which seeks to shift traffic from roads to short sea crossings.
Of the Group’s total workforce of 1,125, 225 are based at Grangemouth with around another 1,500 ancillary jobs in the surrounding area. Grangemouth is Scotland’s leading container port.
Unifeeder has a well established and respected network in the Baltic and Scandinavia. The establishment of a new UK service including Grangemouth, South Shields, Teesport, Immingham and Felixstowe is a significant expansion onto the east coast. The new UK network will connect with established eastern services to create a fast, efficient link with the heart of the Baltic and to Russia, a key developing market for Scotland.