Port bosses look at restoring Yorkshire's canal network as they eye expansion

Yorkshire's port network is set to create more jobs and could potentially look at restoring the North of England's historic canal network to industrial use, it has been claimed.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal Barrowford Locks

The port boss said that the combination of good local road networks, deep water ports and the fast unloading of ships meant that the four ports it operates in the Yorkshire area were well-suited to take additional cargo ships away from the South Coast.

Mr Frith also said that the port had big plans to attract new residents to its network and that ABP, which operates ports in Immingham, Grimsby, Goole and Hull, was yet to see any sign of a negative reaction to Brexit from its business contacts in continental Europe.

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Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Frith said: “We are looking at how we can best use our waterways. Once upon a time there were barges going up and down the UK’s waterways.

“We are looking at how we can best use them towards a Leeds way.

“It is all about taking lorries off the road and carbon footprint reduction. But there is a fair bit of work to do there.”

On international trade potential, Mr Frith had a clear view.

“I think that companies are starting to realise that they do not need to sail their containers into Felixstowe only to truck them all the way back up to the distribution centres up north.

Port of Immingham

“They have realised there is a port here and that it is functioning well.

“The good thing here is our container vessels bring in 500 to 600 containers each ship and they dwell there for no more than two days.

“There are several factors why a northern container port is becoming a lot more beneficial than the likes of Felixstowe.

“A massive one is taking the containers off the road from Felixstowe up north.”

USED USED USED The Gannow Steam Tug on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Whittlefield in 1931. In the centre is Richard "Dick" Draper, tug master for over 30 years. Photo: Tony Alexandrovic

The port of Immingham alone, consisting of a container terminal, a bulk terminal and internal dock, handles 175,000 containers a year and is four times as big as Hull.

Mr Frith said that ABP was increasingly treating its four Yorkshire and Humber ports as a collective, with one whole leadership team overseeing the business.

He said: “We are very conscious about what we bring to the local economy.

“We met with the local Chamber of Commerce this month and it was very evident that nobody wanted to stand still.

Port of Immingham

“That kind of dialogue is encouraging for the area. We just hired 60 new people into ABP.”

Speaking about future plans Mr Firth said: “It is our vision going into 2018 to look at our labour and see how we can create more jobs around here.

“First and foremost we want to get a good deal for our tenants. If they are successful we are successful.

“When it comes to our own business we need to see the growth in containers and the strong relationships that we have with our shipping lines, all of which is promising. We have available land space that we are earmarking for growth and to locate manufacturing here.”

Goods come into the Humber ports from all over the world.

But on the thorny issue of Brexit, ABP’s bosses seem relaxed, yet prepared.

USED USED USED The Gannow Steam Tug on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Whittlefield in 1931. In the centre is Richard "Dick" Draper, tug master for over 30 years. Photo: Tony Alexandrovic

“We have spoken to several of our larger customers and they have not seen a reaction to it just yet,” Mr Frith said.

“We can and will adapt to whatever they want.

“We have land availability in case the border and free trade agreements change somewhat.

“But they are not seeing a resistance from their customer base in Europe yet.

“So we are quite buoyant about whatever the outcome may be and we are ready for whatever the outcome may
be.”

Simon Bird, Associated British Port director for the Humber, said: “Whatever the outcome for the Brexit discussions if there is a need for more customs checking or more border control, then we have the space here to manage that cargo coming in or out.

“Our customers are continuing to invest as we are.

“ We watch very careful the negotiations between the UK and EU and we will be there to manage whatever the outcome is.”