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Felixstowe: the prolific port that’s boosting the UK shipping industry

Mike Plaster
Wednesday 28th February, 2018

As an island nation with worldwide trade responsibilities, shipping is one of the UK’s most relied-upon industries. With as many as 100,000 freight vessels on the world’s seas at any one time[1], it’s never been more vital to have a growing infrastructure in place at our ports. Here we look at how the industry keeps up with the demand.

In the UK, 51 major ports handle 98% of our imports and exports. In 2014, that was a touch under 500 million tonnes’ worth of freight, ferrying its way to locations across Europe and the rest of the world. Since recording 584.5 million tonnes in 2005, the figures dipped due to various economic factors, only to bounce back to the impressive figures recorded a decade later.

Felixstowe, a port town in East Anglia, did more than its fair share in contributing these numbers. Having overseen more than 28 million tonnes of freight in 2014, Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port and one of Europe’s busiest. To ensure the port stays competitive there have been a number of projects over the years to expand and redevelop the docks and surrounding land.

Port with a plan

Even the after-effects of the credit crunch didn’t stop a £300m extension to the Felixstowe quayside, which a spokesman described[2] as taking the steps necessary to stay “ahead of the game… keeping UK industry competitive and providing a means to market for UK exports”.

In spring 2014[3], work began on extending two of the port’s berths, in order to accommodate larger container ships. To that end, one million cubic feet of the sea bed was dredged during an extensive build, which also added three new cranes to the operation.

And the work on making Felixstowe one of Europe’s top shipping ports didn’t end there. Late last year, owners Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd submitted plans[4] to Suffolk Coastal Council to develop on brownfield land previously used as a liquid propane gas installation. It’s hoped that the £40m plan will result in four new warehouses, and 600 new jobs for the area.

Back in 2008, just as the industry began to recover from the financial hit taken all around the world 10 years ago, the Port of Felixstowe wasted no time in clawing back the missed opportunities of the crunch, and commenced work on the construction and expansion of its South Terminal.

Getting back in the game

As new ‘ultra-sized’ container vessels began to make their way around the world’s ports, work was done at Felixstowe to ensure it could accommodate these behemoths. The Deepwater Container Facility required 730 linear metres of quay wall, on which to fit five cranes weighing 1,800 tonnes each, and an addition of nearly 300,000m2 of stacking and handling space for containers. Add in the sheer amount of HGVs, along with other goods vehicles and commercial traffic, and you’d find a paving solution that could withstand these conditions was sorely needed.

With time being another crucial factor in the project, a rapid-fire installation would pay dividends. Our selection of Keyblok ML45 proved invaluable; not only would this concrete block paving do more than the job required under such extreme conditions, but having also managed to complete work within a tight 12-month period, the coast was clear for the Port of Felixstowe to resume preparations for its path towards a new and even brighter future. Read more about Marshalls’ involvement with Felixstowe Port.

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