In what it described as “a vote of confidence in the long-term future of the UK economy”, P&O Ferries today announced that it is to double the freight capacity at its Zeebrugge hub, “in order to meet increased structural demand from exporters to Britain”.
After reaching an agreement with Zeebrugge port operator MBZ, the P&O Ferries’ terminal will be extended by 14 hectares to incorporate a fourth berth and “significantly enhanced rail infrastructure”. The expansion will give P&O Ferries the capacity to handle 700,000 units of freight every year at the Belgian terminal compared with the current figure of 370,000.
Janette Bell, chief commercial officer at P&O Ferries, said:
“Our Zeebrugge hub serves North Sea services to Tilbury, Hull, and Teesport, and we expect our expanded terminal to attract more exporters who are looking for a fast and reliable route to and from the UK market.
“The enhanced rail facilities, including rail-mounted gantry cranes to load and unload freight as quickly as possible, are a vital link in the logistics chain because a growing proportion of the goods we transport originates in Central and Eastern Europe, before being taken to the coast by train. In addition to the fourth Ro-Ro berth, the new terminal will also have facilities to handle Lo-Lo vessels, barges, and feeder ships."
She said the expansion meant that the company could offer freight customers more capacity while continuing to provide a flexible service, including more sailings when demand is high.
P&O Ferries last year introduced a second vessel, the Mistral, to its Zeebrugge-Teesport route to meet demand. In addition, the ferry operator last week reported the best ever quarter on its Zeebrugge-Tilbury route, with freight volumes increasing by 15% year on year.
In 2015, P&O Ferries carried more freight across the English Channel than in any previous year since 2003. The company’s ships transported 1.34 million units of freight during the 12-month period - an increase of 22%, year on year.
P&O Ferries is a leading pan-European ferry operator, sailing on eight major routes between Britain, France, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Holland and Belgium. The company operates 20 vessels that carry more than 2 million freight units, 10 million passengers, and 1.6 million cars every year.
Source: Lloyd's Loading List