Felicity Landon interviews Richard Platts, Group Head of Marine at Kestrel, one of the UK's largest liner agencies.
Richard Platts has chalked up 42 years in the shipping and logistics industry. Having recently arrived on the Humber for the next chapter in his career, his excitement is obvious.
Group Head of Marine at Kestrel Liner Agencies, he has set up and will run the Group’s new marine operations centre at the Waterside Business Park in Hessle.
The new venture will take over some roles from other Kestrel offices elsewhere, such as container line vessels in Liverpool and Greenock, and – given its location – there are plenty of opportunities to create new business, he says.
Kestrel will handle project and breakbulk shipping from the office and it will offer services, including chartering, ships and port agency, documentation and consultancy. As a member of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, Kestrel is an authorised Light Dues collector and can issue Light Dues certificates, and the group is also AEO (Authorised Economic Operator) accredited, and authorised to issue EUR1/ATR1 declarations of origin.
One of the UK’s largest liner agencies, Kestrel was established nearly 30 years ago and specialises in sea and air freight to and from the United States, South America, the Caribbean, West Africa and North Africa.
So, the big question is: why the Humber? “As a national and international service provider, liner agent, port services and chartering company, we felt we needed a platform in the North East to serve existing clients and to develop our presence in the market,” says Richard. “The Humber leads the way, handling more cargo tonnage than any other river in the UK. We recognise the significance of the region; it is really important to have a presence in the Humber ports because of the level of traffic through the area.”
ABP’s introduction of a single unified software system that manages all vessel and compliance reporting has helped us to reduce our administration and overheads.
The vast majority of project cargoes handled by Kestrel are loaded on vessels that are spot fixed, due to the nature of the destination, he says. “But a big attraction of the Humber is the number of vessels that are available for that kind of fixture, because they are already coming in with other cargo. Whether bringing bulk, steel or containers, Humber is very rich in suitable vessels.”
The role of the Humber ports in handling breakbulk and project cargo movements reflects not only the needs of heavy industry in nearby Sheffield, Worksop or Doncaster, but also its location within a two-hour drive of industrial hotspots such as Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Newcastle, which are central to the whole of the UK, he says.
“The Humber is perfect for shipping out foundry pieces from Sheffield, including industrial press components and tunnel boring machine components of more than 300 tonnes a piece and 300 tonne reels of wire rope from Worksop and Doncaster. There is still a strong element of very heavy industry in the region that needs the Humber ports to survive because with the weight or size or both, you can’t take it anywhere else.” Choice is key, he says.
The inland Port of Goole offers a particularly useful link via coastal vessel, whether specially chartered or on the weekly Rhenus Maritime Services to Duisburg.
Grimsby is well established thanks to its riverside ro-ro terminal – by way of an aside, Richard (in a previous role) coordinated the delivery of the new ramp from China in 2013.
Immingham’s deepwater berths can accommodate larger vessels.
Hull has cemented its reputation in the project and breakbulk cargo sectors thanks to the Green Port Hull development with Siemens and the large number of vessels bringing biomass for Drax.
“We are very much involved in the wind power industry. In one major project recently, we handled nine wind turbine vessels coming into ABP Swansea, and there have been similar projects elsewhere,” says Richard. “We are heavily associated with the energy sector in the North as well. For us, Hull is a superb place to be located, especially with the new training facilities being developed. We will also be actively participating in Team Humber Marine Alliance.”
He is proud of Kestrel’s record and reputation: “We are the only UK liner or port agency to have received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade, and we have also achieved the FONASBA Quality Standard mark. We are always pushing for quality and high standards.
”Kestrel’s new office was officially opened on 1 September. Richard, who has strong roots in the region himself, has been busy recruiting and he expects the team to grow quickly.
“The Humber gives us all the options – there is a good variety of ports to serve different needs,” he says. “At the same time, it is helpful that ABP presents a unified offering on the Humber, with one commercial department for the four ports.
“Added to this, ABP has put in place very user-friendly systems. People often talk about ships, but don’t always see what goes on behind the scenes. ABP’s introduction of a single unified software system that manages all vessel and compliance reporting has helped us to reduce our administration and overheads.”