PD Ports 2024 update: investing in a net zero future

PD Ports are the largest private sector employer on Teesside; below, CEO Frans Calje talks about progress made in 2023 and looks ahead to a busy and productive 2024 for the organisation.

I’m writing to share the key developments we’ve made in the last year at PD Ports and to update you on our plans and ambitions for 2024 as a proud ambassador, guardian and key strategic partner to the wider Tees Valley.

As one of the UK’s Major Port Groups we have a critical role in ensuring the UK remains competitive in global trade, especially in challenging times. We are fundamental in the delivery of national priorities centred around high value trade, high quality jobs, energy security, thriving communities and the journey to net zero. We are unwavering in our commitment to tackle the headwinds we currently face head on by investing in our infrastructure and our people.

International trade

As a key northern gateway for international trade, we welcomed new customers CLdN and Ellerman City Liners to Teesport in 2023, while A2B-online extended their contracts and sailings with us, bucking the global trend that has seen challenging conditions due to economic headwinds and the ongoing impacts of the war in Ukraine on North Sea trade.

These new collaborations show the strength of our relationships with our customers, who trust us to deliver a quality service, with fast turnaround times and reduced onward road mileage and CO2 emissions.

I have every confidence that 2024 will bring further new services to Teesport, strengthening our position as the UK sixth largest port by volume and the only major port in England to handle more exports than imports.

Working towards a sustainable future

At PD Ports we aim to be the UK’s most sustainable port operator and we are on our way to achieve carbon neutral status across our Tees-based landside operations by 2027.

We have made investments in new infrastructure this year, including £8.6m in two electric-hydraulic cranes at Tees Dock, supported by the purchase of a number of electric vehicles and a conversion programme for existing machinery to be converted to electric power or an alternative fuel source.

We also continued our investment in our intermodal rail freight operations, offering direct routes from Teesport to Scotland and the south east of England. By removing vehicles from the road network, and by offering rail services that are directly timed to meet ferry arrivals, our rail services offer customers a fast, efficient, and reduced carbon method of moving goods around the country.

There is no denying that we operate in a sector that is typically reliant on heavy plant and machinery but that is why we place such importance on researching, developing, and implementing ways that we can lessen our environmental impact on our daily operations.

We have a responsibility, as a key part of the UK supply chain, to take action and lead by example.

Targeted investments

Although the heart of our operations sits at Teesport, PD Ports group has a UK wide presence, with 11 sites including Hartlepool, Felixstowe, our Humber cluster – including Groveport and Howden – and the Isle of Wight.

This year has seen the development of Hartlepool as a hub for steel and the renewable energy sector, including the regeneration of a building previously used by the oil and gas industry into a dedicated steel terminal. We also agreed a new 15-year lease extension with subsea cable provider JDR Cables, securing some 250 jobs.

In Howden, a £300,000 investment in automated bagging plant has opened up new diversification opportunities for importers and wholesalers of animal feed, while in Felixstowe we have embraced drone technology in our warehouse to improve stock counting and increase worker safety.

Another investment I am particularly excited about is a £400,000 crane training simulator, which will allow us to extend the training of our current cohort of crane drivers, while preparing the next generation, in a completely safe environment.

Our people are at the heart of PD Ports – we are dedicated to our colleagues across the business, helping them to develop their skills and career path, with all the positive knock-on impacts that has for our local communities and economies.

Future goals

Our commitment to the wider communities of which we are part is a mainstay of our priorities. As the largest private employer on Teesside, and a key driver of external investment to the region, we see our role as an ambassador and leading voice for the Tees and its environs and a key player in the push to help our young people achieve their very best.

As part of our Teesport Explorers programme for primary aged children, we were delighted to welcome a group of students from five Tees Valley schools to visit Teesport to showcase maritime careers and provide opportunity to meet a number of the people who work across the site in a variety of roles.

It is our firm belief that children can only achieve if they are given aspirational targets and the understanding of how they can reach their goals.

Coastal communities are often some of the most deprived in the UK – we are determined to do what we can to support efforts to provide opportunities for this and future generations.

Looking forward

Although we see no short-term let-up in the challenging economic conditions in which we are operating, we retain a positive outlook.

The strength of our relationships and the firm foundations we have built with strategic investment mean we are well placed to continue to grow and push forward by attracting new connections and external investment into the Tees.

We will continue to update on developments across the Tees Valley in 2024 through our stakeholder publication, Bridge, which celebrates success, highlights emerging opportunities, and addresses key challenges facing our region. Look out for the Spring edition, planned for April.

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