2022 was a busy year for PD Ports. Here, CEO Frans Calje provides an update on key developments over the past year and an outline of their plans for 2023.
During 2022, PD Ports has been affected by economic headwinds in the UK and its trading partners, as well as the ongoing impact of the war in Ukraine, COVID-19 pandemic, and global supply chain disruption. Despite these challenges, Teesport remains the UK’s sixth largest port by volume, handling 27 million tonnes in 2021, and the only major port in England to handle more exports than imports. I am also pleased to report that continued investment, major new business wins and a strong pipeline of new opportunities mean we are well-placed for future growth and achieving our ambition to make the River Tees the UK’s most successful port region by 2050.
In March, PD Ports was named Business of the Year at the prestigious Maritime UK Awards. The award recognises our commitment to service excellence and bringing investment to the Tees Valley, as well as our track record in driving sustainable growth and creating new jobs. Later in the year, we received eight further industry awards recognising our achievements in areas including sustainability, safety, people development, and innovation. This success is testimony to our values, the strength of our team and our dedication to delivering for customers and the communities we are part of.
A continuing focus for our business is helping companies achieve more sustainable, efficient and resilient supply chains. Working with Ellerman City Lines, in November we were delighted to launch a new weekly service connecting Teesport with Spain and Portugal. The new service is expected to handle over 10,000 containers annually, removing trailers from the burgeoning UK road network for transportation via short sea services that connect Teesport with the wider UK hinterland. For many businesses, especially those located in the North and Midlands, Teesport’s proximity also enables them to lower CO2 emissions by reducing the distance their cargo travels on the UK road network.
Our extensive rail freight network offers additional sustainable and secure ways to move cargo, with over 20 services every week connecting destinations across the UK. In our continued commitment to moving more freight moving around the UK by rail, we were delighted to take up vice-chairmanship of the Rail Freight Group, an industry association dedicated to promoting rail freight. During 2023 we will continue to work towards expanding our rail freight network further by connecting to more key supply chain hubs in the UK.
Teesport is less vulnerable to disruptions and delays compared to many congested ports in the south. Looking ahead to 2023, the introduction of new checks for people moving in and out of the EU, including lorry drivers, is likely to exacerbate these risks, making Teesport an even more important alternative for cargo owners. The necessity of making supply chains more resilient and reducing CO2 emissions underpin the burgeoning demand for additional container handling capacity at Teesport.
Our advances in helping businesses to reduce their CO2 emissions are reinforced by our work to achieve net zero across our Tees-based port operations by 2027. As part of our programme to achieve this aim, in 2022 we completed a £2 million investment in Teesport Container Terminal so that seven of our 10 cranes are now powered by renewable electricity instead of diesel. Building on previous investment in three new electric cranes in 2020, last year, we converted a further four cranes from diesel power to electric. A further three cranes will be converted during 2023. Combined, this investment in conversion will save, on average, 700 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year compared to diesel.
As a port of national strategic importance, Teesport is not just a critical gateway for international trade; it also has an essential role supporting the nation’s wider net zero ambitions by facilitating new renewable and green technologies. In July we strengthened the River Tees’ position as a global leader in offshore wind by entering a new long-term deal with Seajacks, a world-leader in offshore solutions, to bring their UK marine base to the Tees Valley. In November we secured a deal with Green Lithium that will see Teesport become home to the UK’s first green lithium refinery, boosting the UK’s electric car supply chain. The refinery will employ a process with a carbon footprint that is 80% lower than the traditional processes used internationally. During its construction, the refinery is expected to create more than 1000 jobs and support 250 long-term, high-skill jobs for local people when in operation. These achievements represent levelling up in action.
Our enduring commitment to levelling up is also reflected by our ongoing support for young people and communities across the region. As the UK’s leading port operator for supporting young people, during 2022 we maintained our industry-leading apprenticeship programme, welcoming 13 new apprentices into the business. It is fantastic to see our apprentices achieve recognition for their achievements, and in September I was delighted that Emily Clark, an apprentice civil engineer, received the ‘Best Newcomer’ Award at the Fifth Annual Tees Businesswomen Awards. It also great to see so many apprentices and colleagues stay with the business as we continue to make PD Ports a great place to work. In October we held our largest ever long service awards with 16 colleagues celebrating between 25 and 40 years of service to the business. We were also delighted to celebrate the graduation of 11 colleagues following successful completion of PD Ports’ bespoke Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship program with Teesside University, launched in 2018 as part of our ongoing commitment to growing our own talent.
Our ongoing work to make PD Ports a great place to work includes increasing our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. Following the announcement of our Company-wide diversity pledge to coincide with last year’s International Women’s Day, we have worked with external partners to undertake a company-wide diversity audit with the aim of developing a long-term diversity and inclusion strategy which will provide the foundation for achieving our ambition to be an inclusive and diverse employer of choice. Our industry has a historic gender imbalance where women are significantly underrepresented. Studies suggest that women account for only 11% of the overall maritime workforce and, perhaps even more startling, it is estimated that less than 1% of that are women in operational roles. That is why we will sustain our efforts to tackle these issues and ensure that opportunities within our industry are accessible and attractive to all.
Throughout last year, we continued to support communities and charities, and reinforced our commitment to inspiring young people about the exciting career opportunities within PD Ports, the wider ports industry and around the River Tees. In addition to maintaining our successful partnerships with the Tees Valley Education Trust, Tees Valley Logistics Academy and High Tide Foundation, during 2022 we delivered several initiatives to help young people and to raise their aspirations. In October we opened our doors to 250 primary school children from across the Tees Valley as part of our Teesport Explorers Programme, providing Year 5 pupils from Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar with the opportunity to see Teesport first-hand and learn more about exciting careers in maritime. One of the many highlights of last year’s fundraising for charity was our role facilitating voluntary contributions from vessels visiting the River Tees to raise £15,000 for Zoё’s Place Baby Hospice, providing a week’s worth of care for children with life limiting illnesses under the age of five, as well as providing support for their siblings and family members.
Although it appears as though economic headwinds will continue during the year ahead, we will continue to work hard to drive growth and seize new opportunities. Our uncompromising ambition is that PD Ports remains a catalyst for a stronger economy, a more sustainable future, and a thriving Tees Valley.
We will continue to update you on our progress at PD Ports and the wider business activity across the River Tees throughout the course of 2023 through our key stakeholder publication, Bridge. Launched in October 2022, Bridge aims to demonstrate the unique strengths of the Tees Valley and the River Tees by celebrating success, highlighting emerging opportunities, showcasing new investment, and addressing key challenges facing our industry. The latest edition is available to download here.