United and stronger than ever – ABP's Wales & Short Sea Ports region

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Wales & Short Sea Ports has become a new region for ABP following a reorganisation. Kate Pearce speaks to the division’s director Andrew Harston about the opportunities this presents for the future.


With 16 ports covering 5,400 acres of port estate already handling 20 million tonnes of cargo each year, Wales & Short Sea Ports represents a sizeable part of ABP’s business.

Director Andrew Harston is enjoying the opportunity to share his vision for how the new region will operate.

Until the reorganisation this summer, ABP had four divisions: The Humber, Southampton, South Wales & Short Sea Ports.

By bringing together Wales and the Short Sea Ports, Andrew is confident that customers will receive an even better service, with improved efficiencies.

“We have always enjoyed a good relationship with the Welsh Government and we will look to strengthen those existing links,” said Andrew, who is celebrating 36 years in the port sector, having started his career as an ABP management trainee in 1983."

“In terms of the 16 ports that comprise the new region, Port Talbot, Newport and Cardiff represent three of our largest operating centres. I see Wales being at the heart of what we do and, to use a rugby term, we will be packing the Short Sea Ports capabilities around it to create a ‘hub and spoke’ structure." Andrew Harston Director

The five Welsh ports are Cardiff, Barry, Newport, Port Talbot and Swansea.

“Yara is a major fertiliser importer and recently expanded its operations to include the Port of Garston, while at the same time continuing its work at Immingham on the Humber and other ABP regions, including Ayr and Swansea.”

The 11 Short Sea Ports are Barrow, Fleetwood, Garston, Ayr, Ipswich, Kings Lynn, Plymouth, Lowestoft, Silloth, Teignmouth and Troon.

Together, the 600 ABP colleagues across the new region’s 16 ports comfortably handle almost every conceivable sector, including agribulks, construction, containers, cruise, bulk, energy, forest products, liquid bulks, rail freight, offshore wind, project cargo, Ro-Ro, ferries, steel and other metals.

By bringing the new region together, ABP is encouraging regional experience and expertise to be better shared across its network, allowing an even more consistent approach to best practice.

The main focus for the reorganisation is to better serve existing and new customers.

Already, Andrew and his team have identified 11 existing customers who use ports within both Wales & Short Sea Ports and they are working to increase efficiency and further improve the customer experience, not just within the new region, but also working with ABP’s other major operations such as Southampton and the Humber.

“Yara is a major fertiliser importer and recently expanded its operations to include the Port of Garston, while at the same time continuing its work at Immingham on the Humber and other ABP regions, including Ayr and Swansea.“So up until now they have been dealing with Wales & Short Sea Ports with different contracts and separate teams.” Andrew Harston Director

But enhancing services for existing customers is only part of the story.

Andrew is also excited by future prospects, as the combination of the expertise, facilities and locations from across the new region also creates the opportunity to grow the customer base.

“My vision for Wales & Short Sea Ports is that the sum of the parts is greater than the individual ports. Together we have much more scope to grow,”

We have got 13 ports on the West Coast within the new region and that is the greatest spread of any port operator in the UK.

Our new region spans the distance from Troon in Scotland to Teignmouth in Devon, which is 450 miles, and the distance from Swansea to Lowestoft, which is the UK’s most easterly port. This, together with our great connections to key road and rail infrastructure, gives us a multitude of options for our customers to import or export to and from important industrial regions within the UK, with ABP as the ‘one stop shop’.”

A major advantage the Wales & Short Sea Ports division has is the amount of space they can offer customers.

“We are looking to identify manufacturing and process production businesses that would benefit from having a location close to the quayside.

“With the removal of the Severn Bridge tolls, Newport has the potential to attract businesses that want to be on the quayside but with good road access into England and more direct routes into the West Midlands.

“Following Brexit, as we develop trade agreements with the rest of the world, we will be looking at businesses who are wanting to invest in the UK. We have the land that will allow them to bring in raw materials for manufacturing and distribution in the UK,” he said.

As well as ensuring optimal use of port land for commercial use, ABP is also looking at opportunities to breathe new life into regions across the UK.

“We will be looking at places like Fleetwood, which has witnessed the decline of the fishing industry, parts of Barry and the Island site in Ipswich, to look at creating new purposes for these locations.

“We are a substantial landholder and we need to look at how we can sensibly and sustainably develop these areas to encourage growth, new skills and more high tech activity. There are opportunities for plastic recycling and water renewable energy generation operations to be developed in these areas between now and 2050. We’re working hard to explore these possibilities,” he said.