A north east port is on course to record a three-year high for export volumes despite facing a series of extraordinary external challenges.
Port of Sunderland, which is owned and operated by Sunderland City Council, has already seen export levels for the first three quarters exceed last year’s annual total and is on track to record its best year since 2017.
The port shipped over 140,000 tonnes of cargo during the first nine months of the year, despite having to adapt to the requirements of a new external market place. The port played a key role in sustaining several of the country’s key sectors and supply chains during the crisis, including tissue manufacture, offshore survey, construction and agriculture.
Matthew Hunt, director of Port of Sunderland, said: “While the last seven months have thrown up a whole host of unforeseen challenges, we couldn’t be any prouder of how our staff have risen to the challenge of keeping Britain trading throughout this crisis.
“As an island nation, UK ports handle 95 per cent of all of our import and export cargo by volume - about 500 million tonnes of freight per year – therefore keeping ships moving and goods flowing has been critical to our survival and as the pandemic unfortunately continues, we are more than ready to rise to the challenge of maintaining this momentum.”
The port – which was bolstered by an £8.2millon investment after areas of its estate were granted Enterprise Zone (EZ) status in 2017 – recently announced the completion of a multi-million pound road improvements project and a major improvement-programme to its East Shore nine-acre development site, both of which will make the hub more attractive for inward investors and help improve the flow of goods through the port.
The overall investment was awarded by the North East LEP and is the latest in a programme of wider strategic investment across Sunderland to enable export-driven activities to take place and to build on the existing growth at Port of Sunderland. The North East LEP has made Port of Sunderland - and Sunderland at large - a key area of focus when considering maritime investment and job creation.
Matthew added: “Over the past few months we’ve seen work complete on our road improvement programme, enabling works come to a close on the East Shore Enterprise Zone and reported rising export volumes, all while adjusting to a global pandemic. I can’t recall a period of such challenge but also opportunity for the port, and we’ve absolutely risen to both.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council and chair of Port of Sunderland, said: “Port of Sunderland is a key economic asset not only to the city but to the entire region and while we’ve witnessed first-hand the incredible work put in by all of the staff over the past few months, it’s fantastic to see statistics like this that validate their efforts.
“However, we aren’t resting on our laurels and as lockdown measures begin to once again tighten, we know we have a huge role to play in helping keep Britain moving and to echo Matthew, we’re confident we have an amazing team and the infrastructure in place to help us rise to this challenge and support the global fight against the virus.”