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London Gateway enlists The Stig as competition gears up

London Gateway enlists The Stig as competition gears up
The Multimodal exhibition held in Birmingham recently provided the usual heady mix of gossip and giveaways at the UK’s NEC, with ports, shipping lines, logistics operators and others jostling for position and potential customers. But with London Gateway now rapidly taking shape on the north bank of the River Thames, and due to open for business in the fourth quarter 2013, this year there was an added dimension.

Conversations were to be heard comparing the very considerable size of the stands operated by rivals Hutchison Ports UK (HPUK) and DP World; and there were top marks for the sheer amount of effort put in by HPUK, promoting Felixstowe, which it brands “The Port of Britain”, and DP World, promoting London Gateway as “Britain’s newest port”.

DP World brought in The Original Stig (from popular TV show Top Gear) and visitors were invited to challenge him to a race on an exclusively designed quay crane simulator. The target – to see if they could beat The Stig at offloading boxes from a ship in a set time.

Rumour has it that one of Felixstowe’s operations managers achieved a chart-topping score but was far too modest to have his name up in lights. It had to happen, of course.

London Gateway has now taken delivery of its fourth and fifth quay cranes from ZPMC, and recently announced that its 1m sq m logistics park will include a Common User Facility for smaller shippers looking to develop portcentric solutions – or, indeed, for larger cargo owners looking to dip their toe in the water.

At Felixstowe, meanwhile, work is nearing completion on the new North Rail Terminal and an announcement is expected soon on the port’s 30th daily container train service (or 60th, when counted there and back) to/from the port. The port is waiting for final approval to extend its new Berths 8 and 9 to provide more deepwater berthing.

The Multimodal seminar programme included a discussion on “where will trade go in 2013”, and among the panellists was Charles Meaby, commercial director at London Gateway.

“What we are working on is all about change,” he said. “Change is inevitable in everything we do and that is being driven by real fundamental need for finding cost savings in whatever you do.”

As speculation mounts on which shipping line might be the first to confirm calls at London Gateway, DP World will not be drawn to make any announcements and Meaby was not about to reveal any secrets.

But sitting next to him, Neel Ratti, general manager of Tuscor Lloyds, said: “I think Charles has got his work cut out in terms of how well Felixstowe are performing right now. Competition is pretty fierce out there. DP World is just about to open London Gateway. Felixstowe has suddenly become the most responsive port I have ever dealt with in my lifetime.”

He added: “In order to compete in that market, you need to be pretty damn good at what you do.”

The response: “That is good to hear,” said Meaby. “Competition drives that kind of thing.”