It is estimated that ports and port-dependant industries account for around 185,000 jobs nationwide, which is why as one of the largest employers in the Tees Valley and a business of national importance, Teesport continues to play a crucial role in both the local and national economy.
Contributing well in excess of £1.4bn to the UK economy in 2020 alone, Teesport was identified as a key piece of UK infrastructure in the earlier stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, and continued operating to ensure vital supplies such as food, construction materials and building supplies could reach their end destinations around the UK.
Under the guidance of CEO Frans Calje, the port continues to service vital supply chains nationwide and, during the peak of the pandemic, celebrated the arrival of the largest containership to visit Teesport, demonstrating how the port is intrinsically linked to the success of the wider Tees Valley as a gateway for global commerce.
The Adelheid-S, measuring 222.5m in length and 32.2m in width, berthed at Teesport in June after an 18-hour sailing from Antwerp, ready to discharge 852 containers full of cargo for onward distribution to well-known retailers nationwide, highlighting the critical role that Teesport plays in the wider national supply chain, especially during such challenging times.
Fast-forward another two months and more positive news was emanating out of Teesport courtesy of the multi-million-pound Teesport Bulks Terminal – the latest in a string of investments by the port owners and operators, PD Ports, to ensure that the Tees Valley remains globally competitive.
The unveiling of the £9.2m bulks handling facility marked a significant milestone not only for the port but also for the region, signifying the revival of bulk handling following the collapse of the SSI Steelworks in 2015.
Officially opened by Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke, the former minister for regional growth and local government, what used to be a steel export terminal has now been repurposed into a state-of-the-art facility for handling agribulk products such as grain, corn and soya.
Ever the voice of positivity, Frans Calje remains defiant in the face of adversity, and is confident that better times are indeed on the horizon for the Tees Valley’s industrial landscape, despite the global pandemic and particularly following the unveiling of the Teesport Bulks Terminal.
“The Covid-19 crisis has truly highlighted the importance of the global supply chain to our region’s economy and, as one of the UK’s major pieces of infrastructure, we have and will continue to operate throughout this pandemic and beyond,” said Frans.
“Thanks to an ongoing journey of diversification, we have been able to rise, almost symbolically, from our own ashes into something that is now far larger in 2020 than it ever was before.”
Speaking on future prosperity for the region, Frans also explained how positive collaboration and young people development will be key in ensuring that the Tees Valley continues to attract large-scale investments and business opportunities.
“The recent rebranding of the Teesworks site, housing 4,500 acres of developable land with direct connections to Teesport, will be an enticing asset for the region,” said Frans.
“PD Ports will work in tandem with Teesworks to really regenerate the land bank that sits around us to repurpose it once again for further diversification, for different activities. All that will contribute towards the prosperity of the Tees Valley.
“This project is principally about repurposing the steelworks, and possibly developing offshore wind capabilities, where we all know that massive development is going to happen in the next decade – we want to be part of that and we will work closely with Teesworks to make it happen.”
Another key component in ensuring the region continues to rebuild post Covid-19 will be addressing the skills gap and continuing to encourage young people to pursue careers in the industry, says Frans.
“At PD Ports we pride ourselves on our ability to attract, retain and develop talent,” he added.
“A real priority for us as we emerge from this situation is showing people that there are jobs available with PD Ports and that those jobs are desirable and, most importantly, achievable.
“As well as continuing our work with the High Tide Foundation, Tees Valley Logistics Academy, Teesside University and Stockton Riverside College, we will also be looking to double the number of apprentices we hire in comparison to previous years.
“We see apprentices as the lifeblood of our business, vital building blocks and important elements for future growth.
“This year, we will be looking to hire ten engineering apprentices compared to five in 2019, as well as well as another 15 across a variety of roles within PD Ports.”