Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Oct 21, 2002
Tilbury Container Services completes Epic deal
The CMA CGM Capella arrives at Tilbury Container Services' new riverside berth... A number of new vessels are expected to call at Tilbury Container Services, following the completion of the new berth.
recently in Tilbury (UK)
BELIEVE IT, a courtesy visit by a UK Government-sponsored trade mission to the regional office of the Europe Pakistan India Consortium (Epic) in Mumbai in December 2000 set in motion forces ultimately leading to the transfer of Epic vessels from Thamesport, operated by the Hutchinson Group, to the Tilbury container terminal run by Tilbury Container Services, a joint venture company promoted by P&O Ports, Associated British Ports and Forthports.
The Epic service is run jointly by P&O Nedlloyd, CMA CGM, Contship, Safmarine and Andrew Weir Shipping (Ellerman) providing weekly calls to and from Northern Europe calling at Tilbury, Hamburg, Mediterranean ports and extending to the Middle East and the Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal in India and Port Qasim in Pakistan. Seven vessels, each with a TEU capacity of 3500 deployed on the service, are P&O Nedlloyd Damieta, Contship Champion, Contship Innovator, Safmarine Kimley, Safmarine Victory and AWS City of Edinburgh.
The head of port promotion of the Port of London Authority (PLA), Mr Geoff Adam, visited India as part of a government-backed trade mission organised by the London Chamber of Commerce and Trade Partners UK. His meeting with regional Epic representatives in Mumbai followed initial discussions between the UK-based consortium and Tilbury Container Services, which has already developed the second riverside container berth. Shortly after Mr Adam's return to the UK and throughout 2001, he and the Tilbury Container Services representatives held discussion with the consortium members in London, Antwerp and Rotterdam to discuss the possible transfer of service from Thamesport to Tilbury.
But it was not until earlier this year that the real negotiations began between Tilbury Container Services, PLA and senior representatives of the lines, clinching the deal for Port of London. Completing the port community involvement, the tug operators Adsteam negotiated directly with the shipping lines, while the service signed up to PACE, the London port community EDI system.
The first scheduled Epic vessel to inaugurate the service was CMA CGM Capella that called on September 4, although two vessels operated by Contship called prior to this to maintain their schedule during the transfer of service from the previous UK port of Thamesport. In a full year, the service is expected to handle 40,000 TEUs through Tilbury Container Services.
According to a spokesman for Tilbury Container Services, the Epic service is one of the first of what is hoped will be a number of new services to call at Tilbury Container Services following the completion of the new riverside berth this year. Some progress has already been made. United European Car Carriers launched a new weekly service bringing new Ford Transit Connect vans from Turkey.
An estimated 30,000 vehicles a year are expected to be handled and with this the car throughput will double at Tilbury as Hyundai is already importing about 30,000 vehicles year through its 35-acres PDI (pre-delivery inspection) facilities at Tilbury.
Other services into Tilbury will include South African services by Maersk and P&O Nedlloyd, Australia-New Zealand service by P&O Nedlloyd, Contship and Hapag-Lloyd, South American Lambada service by P&O Nedlloyd independently, Mediterranean service by Porchard independently and West African service by Bacoliner. Only one service Vax service to Casablanca (Morocco) withdrew. However, the Epic service covering, among others, the ports in the Indian sub-continent continues to be the single largest service accounting for nearly one-third of the total number of containers handled by Tilbury Container Services at Tilbury.
To support the new services, Tilbury Container Services has continued with its investment programmes with orders placed for acquiring more of straddle carriers and other equipment.
Also, there is a plan to build a new on-dock railhead, linking Tilbury Container Services directly to the National Freightliner network. This facility is expected to be ready for operation in the next 12 months or so.
In addition to investment in hardware, investments are also being made on human resource; that is, the people who will make things work are being recruited and trained.
Tilbury Container Services, which runs the first purpose-built container terminal in the UK, is thus at the forefront of deep-sea shipping within the Port of London.
The initial visit of the PLA's chief of port promotion to the Epic office in Mumbai was at the insistence of TCS and at that meeting the development of the second riverside berth in Tilbury and the benefit of London's proximity and direct transport links to the home market were discussed. The rest, as they say, is history.
Indian shippers using Epic services may draw comfort from the fact that a much bigger container terminal is being planned by P&O Ports at Shell Haven at an estimated investment of £1.5 billion. Shell's oil terminal at the location was closed in 1999. "There is need for one if not more container terminals in the UK and the sooner we can get one built the better," Mr Steve Cuthbert, Chief Executive of Port of London Authority, told this scribe in London recently. "There is now need for more container capacity because we are certainly seeing container capacity stretched," he said.
Referring to the public inquiry into the London Gateway scheme for which date had been fixed, Mr Cuthbert was particularly critical of the plethora of the environmental rules and regulations. "As many as 45-50 rules and regulations all bundled together have to be complied and at times we do not find any logic in it," he said, adding, "that the environment pendulum has swayed too far." He wondered if those framing legislation properly understood the issues relevant to the protection of marine environment. "There has to be coherent regime, there has to be a broad consensus," Mr Cuthbert emphasised.
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