Shipping New Economic Life into Wales' Old Ports

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

Shipping New Economic Life into Wales' Old Ports


Byline: By Professor Stuart Cole

Transport expert, Professor Stuart Cole, assesses the economic impact of ports in Wales

HISTORICALLY ports have developed and declined in step with the economic activity - and especially the industrial activity - of their hinterland.

For the ports in Wales, especially Cardiff and Swansea, the decades of the busiest traffic reflect the industrial activity associated with mines and steelworks. Holyhead has been much more dependent on trade between the UK and Ireland, and Milford Haven has developed a role for petrochemicals traffic, in addition to Irish trade.

Although some opportunities for new traffic have been identified, there is significant under utilised capacity in all the ports.

A port may serve a local area or a far wider market. For example, the port of Cardiff is constrained by the close proximity of the neighbouring ports while the specialised nature of the refinery activity at Milford Haven means it can draw traffic from further afield.

However, economic activity can be situated close to the port from where finished products are dispatched by sea. As with the Channel Tunnel, the port of Holyhead is a link in the European road infrastructure between Ireland and the mainland and in consequence it draws traffic from a large hinterland.

Cruise ships calling at a port will provide opportunities for local businesses in the tourism sector as well as for supply companies. The opportunities come not so much from port handling, but from day excursions when each passenger visiting Wales is estimated to spend pounds 80-100 per day. This is a growing international market where the large cruise companies are constantly looking for new visiting ports. Wales is growing its market but new berths are needed if the very large ships are to bring this new form of economic regeneration.

The greater employment impact comes from the other activities at the port, for example in warehousing, packaging and distribution or in repair yards. The Bob Martin packaging plant and warehouse at Cardiff illustrate the latter.

Ports may also be an essential transport link for specialised industries.

Aircraft wings, too large to be transported by road or air, are manufactured at the Airbus plant in Broughton and then transferred by barge to the docks at Mostyn. …

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