Southampton Port – Successes and Challenges

Southampton is the UK’s busiest vehicle handling port and Europe’s foremost turnaround cruise port, contributing £2 billion to the UK economy every year. Less that two miles from the M27, and with direct rail links to the UK railway network it is also served by Southampton International Airport.

New Asia to Europe route confirmed for Southampton Port

The port is also a substantial container gateway and its routes to Asia are about to be improved with a new service from Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) that offers a round trip route comprising Pusan-Shanghai-Ningbo-Kaohsiung-Shenzhen-Singapore-Colombo-Rotterdam-Hamburg-Southampton-Singapore-Hong Kong-Pusan. Whilst the service will comprise a mere ten vessels of 4,600 TEU, which is considerably more modest than most other Asia-Europe round routes, HMM also says the transit will be an express one with a 28 day Shanghai to Rotterdam travel time.

Congestion threatens port success

While routes out of Southampton might be improving, threats to travel inside the city have been revealed in a new transport analysis report. Analysts INRIX say their work reveals that Southampton is the 17th worse city in the UK for traffic congestion, ranking below cities such as Leicester and Coventry, but above Newcastle and Liverpool. The Hampshire Chamber of Commerce has contacted Highways England to ask them to speed up planned improvement works, especially those on the westbound M27 around Junction 5 which the report names as the city’s worst congestion hot spot. The new improvements will turn junctions 4 – 11 on the M27 into a smart motorway – one which applies active traffic management techniques, such as variable speed limits and hard shoulder running to speed traffic flow. This work should be complete by 2019.

At the same time, Highways England are starting work this month on a £25 million scheme to improve the Redbridge roundabout and a further £130 million upgrade of M27 junctions 8 and 9 to try and take traffic from the motorway before it contributes to city congestion.

Eling Wharf – port benefit or city eyesore?

While city chiefs are happy about planned works to support a better traffic system for Southampton, they are not as confident about the future of Eling Wharf. Until February 2018 the local council has been in discussion with the then owners Burt Bolton Holdings over a plan to build a supermarket and homes including affordable housing on the site – a plan which would have created 350 jobs. Now the land has been purchased by Associated British Ports (ABP) which also owns the port itself and there are fears that the 41 acre site will now be used purely as an overflow for Southampton docks.

Local councillors say they accept that the proposed regeneration scheme will not happen but they want a clear picture of ABP’s plans, saying that a suggesting tidying up of the site could prove difficult to accept, especially if that means removing trees and hedges to make way for new fencing. They also say that local people will be disappointed that the site will probably have HGV traffic 365 days of the year. Southampton’s reputation as a major port depends on its ability to handle warehouse logistics for a vast range of importers and exporters and whilst it offers bonded warehouse facilities, pallet storage and order fulfilment services through a range of 3PL logistics providers, transport and longer term parking have both been major question marks in recent years.

Container handling at Southampton

Route changes at a number of ports in the past 18 months have led to frustration amongst hauliers, especially those required to learn a completely new port system after their long term routes moved from Felixstowe to Southampton. Port officials say they have sympathy with haulage contractors who have had to negotiate new facilities and services including servicing vehicles and driver stopovers in an already busy and congested port facility but pointed to evidence that Southampton has been able to improve on turn-around times for trucks in the previous 12 months, reducing the total truck time inside the terminal. This turn-around which covers the time it takes from gate arrival to depositing an export container and picking up an import container and has reduced from an average of 36 minutes to just under 33 minutes.

The terminal also says that while the number of cargo container loads passing through the port has increased, the 2016 terminal expansion has alleviated potential port congestion. In August 2016 the port added 11 acres of yard and storage space and the acquisition of Eling Wharf will make a substantial contribution to the provision of warehousing, specialist storage and value-added order fulfilment services in the Southampton area.

Drone trial to include Southampton Port

Five areas in the UK have been picked to take part in innovative research into the role of drones in improving public life. Southampton Port travel has complex demands made on its public space and the need to provide an intensely positive civic experience to the 2 million cruise ship passengers who pass through the port, let alone the container traffic and import and export companies trade.

The drones are being tested by NESTA, a government body that wants to find out how the public views drones, how they can be used in urban locations and their environmental impacts. In Southampton this could mean exploring how drones might be used to deliver emergency medical supplies, and to examine public infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels to look for damage. For port shipping, drone use could be a way to examine cargoes before the vessel reaches the dock, invaluable in cases where there may be concerns about contamination or biohazards, but also potentially streamlining the customs and unloading processes by giving the port accurate information, including real time photographs of cargoes to allow for effective decision making about scheduling shipping into docks. A final potential use for drones in the Southampton area would be to test water and air quality around shipping, giving vessel-specific data about such controversial matters as tank and effluent discharge and particulate air pollution.

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