Which words might usefully sum up the virtues of ABP’s five South Wales ports? How about flexibility, diversity, tradition & innovation? As a recent economic impact study demonstrated, another word would be 'vital' — to the region’s industries, to jobs and to the local and national economy.
In its study, Arup concluded that port and port-related activities in Barry, Cardiff, Newport, Port Talbot and Swansea support 15,000 jobs in Wales and another 6,000 jobs elsewhere in the UK. The five port operations, including tenants’ activities, contribute £1.4bn to the UK economy, including £1bn in Wales.
“This shows the substantial contribution of our ports; we are vital in supporting local industries and there is a massive ripple effect in terms of hauliers, agents, stevedores, engineers and services,” says Matthew Kennerley, ABP South Wales ports director. “Over the past few years we have seen a big increase in investment in our infrastructure in South Wales and have been using local contractors for much of the work.
“And the key message is – our ports are great assets which provide Welsh industry with access to global markets, for their raw material imports and their export activities.”
Yes, all ports have to respond to the ups and downs of the markets they serve.
But in South Wales, that factor is surely magnified when it comes to the steel production industry and the challenges it has faced in recent years.
As part of ABP’s business transformation programme, Cardiff is running a trial real-time stock control system with leogistics.
“Steel is the big one for us and Tata is a major part of our business – particularly at Port Talbot and Newport and occasionally 26 REPORT – WINTER 2017 27 through Cardiff,” says Matthew. “We are working with Tata on future opportunities and where they can find easier routes into their export markets. We recognise how important Tata is to the Welsh economy, too.
“Tata has been through some difficult times recently but steel prices have recovered and we are pleased to see that their business is improving, with exports obviously benefiting from the exchange rate.”
Through ABP’s facilities at Port Talbot, Tata handles imports of iron ore, coal and specialised bulks for the blast furnace and, while a significant amount of the steel produced goes into domestic use, there are also exports to be handled.
“Tata produces mainly strip coil at various stages of processing, but occasionally is exporting slab as well, depending on demand and rolling capacity,” says Matthew. “This is a globally traded product and a lot of factors can influence it. We have to be really flexible to handle the varying volumes and types.”
ABP South Wales is also critical in supporting the local agricultural industry, handling fertilisers and animal feedstuffs.
This is another area where volumes are growing. ABP responded at Newport by building a new 3,000 sq m shed for AFS; construction of another 7,000 sq m shed is to start soon, and a new automated weighbridge has been installed for slicker transfers from quay to storage to customers.
While steel and agribulks are rooted in tradition, recyclables represent a ‘newer’ growth cargo. These include waste wood and refuse derived fuel (RDF) for power stations in mainland Europe and Scandinavia; glass going to Spain and Portugal for recycling; and scrap, with volumes dependent on the steel sector, going to the Mediterranean, India and China.
Timber, cement and aggregates imports for local construction projects are doing well; fuel, chemicals and other liquid bulks are important particularly in Cardiff; an intermodal terminal at Barry handles raw materials for the Dow Corning facility, with some products distributed out by tanker and some by containers; bitumen comes in through Cardiff for road projects; industrial products dominate the weekly container service linking Cardiff with Ireland; and Swansea’s two drydocks look set for a busy future in ship repair following a major refurbishment and lease agreement with Swansea Drydocks Ltd.
ABP South Wales also has an impressive record in power generation, particularly through a 4.5 MW ground-based solar array at Barry as well as wind turbines and solar panels at Newport and Swansea.
“Altogether we have the capability to generate 11 MW of embedded power across the South Wales ports, which is enough to satisfy the ABP need in the region and significantly reduce our carbon footprint,” says Matthew. “We are also about to start a project in Barry to introduce battery storage technology.
”Continued investment is the priority. A programme to replace lock gates reaching the end of their lifespan in Cardiff, Port Talbot and Newport is underway.
The Atlantic Shed operated by WE Dowds at Newport has been refurbished – with two new gantry cranes and new access roads, this facility stores up to 30,000 tonnes of imported steel coil mainly destined for the automotive and white goods manufacturing sectors, much of this going out by rail. Next, an old brick built shed is to be replaced with a modern facility that will treble its storage capacity for steel coil. Two new Liebherr 180 mobile harbour cranes have been purchased and Newport’s forklifts have been upgraded to handle increasing steel volumes.
A £2.7m investment at Port Talbot has replaced the Greenpark Weir which ensures the water flow into the enclosed docks and also provides resilience of water supply for Tata’s steel works, while delivering social and environmental benefits and better fish stock management. Swansea, meanwhile, is seeing significant capability and productivity benefits from a new Mantsinen materials handling crane.
In Cardiff, ABP took over a number of operations following the liquidation of Cardiff Stevedores Ltd, and has been upgrading sheds and equipment to improve storage capacity for steel long products.
And just as ABP is providing the facilities for a ‘traditional’ market, so Cardiff is also innovating to support that market.
“As part of ABP’s business transformation programme, Cardiff is running a trial realtime stock control system with leogistics,” says Matthew. “Once we have the basics in place, we will look at introducing customer portals so they can see in real time the progress of unloading, how much stock is in the shed, how many lorries have been loaded. It is about increasing cargo information and visibility for the customer, and it is also giving us a better understanding of progress being made and how we can continue to improve the services we provide. We hope that in time the system will be used not only for long product steel in Cardiff but also for many other commodities which we handle in South Wales and elsewhere in the group.
“The system will deliver one set of data and one version of the truth. I am really pleased that Cardiff is being used as the test bed for this.”