Teesport floatation will spur expansion plans
It will be port business as usual in Hartlepool if the newly independent PD Ports gets the approval it now wants for its proposed £ 500m property project development around Victoria Harbour.
Planning for it is going ahead following the long-mooted and now confirmed sale of the PD Group by Japan-based Nikko Cordial for £172.5m and the flotation of shares in the new PD Ports plc, 29.9% of which remain in Nikko hands.
The new entity is to be listed on London's Alternative Investment Market with a market capitalisation of £175m. Chief executive Graham Roberts has said PD Ports will now use its access to capital to advance expansion plans that could see Teesport become the only major international container terminal in northeast England.
Nikko has sold its ports interests to PD Ports via the intervention of broker Collins Stewart as an accelerated initial public offering. The broker has formed a consortium of institutional investors and shares are to be traded from mid-July.
"The Hartlepool development is definitely an integral part" of Nikko's sale of the whole PD Group, Robinson says. Asked just how the sale and the Victoria Harbour project could run side by side, development director Martyn Pellew says: "The development is part of the ongoing operational management of the business, whereas the sale of the Group is being handled by Nikko the shareholder, leaving the day-to-day operations to an experienced management team".
Nikko has been involved with PD since its 2000 acquisition of Powell Duffryn.
Since then, it has restructured and some parts of the business have been sold off, including under-used property in Purfleet and Selby, for property development similar to that now being planned at Victoria Harbour.
The project entails the redevelopment of a 200-acre former car storage, brownfield site belonging to PD on the south side of Victoria Harbour.
"The land needed to handle about 600,000 tons of cargo per annum can be concentrated within the 100 acres that will be left on the north side of the site", Robinson says.
The waterfront property development would restrict about half of the 380-metre Irvines Quay, one of the three main berths. That's because of a new bridge planned there connecting headland and mainland. All other facilities, among them a 380-metre deep-water berth and the 150-metre Victoria Quay, would still be used by the port.
No new quays or berths are planned and there will be no reduction in traffic handled, but there will be a few operational changes, Robinson reveals: "There will need to be some transfer of warehouse and storage of cargo into the northern sheds because two blocks of existing warehousing on the south side will eventually be demolished to allow space for new properties." Cargo involved will include sand, talc, limestone and possibly also scrap metal, but the import of steel plate and export of steel tubes for Corus will continue.
Pointing to the reasons for the development and its strategic value to PD, marketing official Kirsten Potter says Victoria Harbour was "an important part of the overall PD business plan as it will generate sufficient monies to allow investment in port facilities elsewhere in the PD Group".
FURTHER CONTAINER CAPACITY PLANNED Pellew elaborates: "Monies will be used for continued expenditure, particularly on container facilities in Teesport as we expect to further expand from our new capacity of 160,000 to 240,000 containers per annum once we have filled the new second terminal."
PD also hopes to make Hartlepool more attractive to cruise liners, the Royal Navy and Tall Ships. "Inside the main Hartlepool port" - where the water depth is 8.5 metres - "the existing berths will be used for vessels including cruise liners, but if necessary larger ships could moor off the coast and use tenders to bring passengers ashore", Pellew said. "We envisage Hartlepool as a cruise port of call rather than an embarkation port, he says.
Looking ahead, Robinson explains how the Hartlepool project ties in with overall strategy on the Tees: "PD Teesport is very optimistic about the future bearing in mind that last year was a record for the port, handling almost 54m tons of cargo. The future includes considerable work to find new customers, especially deep-sea container traffic, for the second container terminal." He also says the port anticipates further increases in steel exports and that "in the very long-term" the port wanted to "investigate in greater depth" the investment prospects for a deep-sea port close to the mouth of the Tees river.
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