DP World Ltd.’s London Gateway port received its first ship today following a decade-long project to build a deep-water haven close to the U.K. capital that aims to become one of Europe’s busiest container terminals.
The MOL Caledon docked in the first of sixth berths to be opened at the site located 25 miles east of London and intended to handle 3.5 million 20-foot containers a year. Its cargo included fruit and automotive parts, DP World said in an e-mail.
London Gateway is located closer to major U.K. population centers than other ports able to handle 400-meter (1,300-foot) ships that can carry more than 18,000 containers, DP World said.
“This is the first port to be built in the U.K. in a generation,” DP World Chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said in a statement. “There is nothing else like this. Shipping lines can now bring the world’s largest ships closer to key U.K. markets and reduce the costs of transportation.”
DP World spent 1.5 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) developing London Gateway on a site formerly occupied by a Royal Dutch Shell Plc oil refinery. The new port will be able to handle bigger ships than Tilbury and is two-thirds closer to half London than Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.’s Port of Felixstowe.
The dock complex is designed to win clients by combining a harbor terminal with an onsite distribution center, luring wholesalers and retailers away from older sites. Its berths are big enough to take ships the size of A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S’s 165,000-ton Triple-E class, of which five are due this year, with 138 meter-high cranes able to span 25-container wide decks.
The MOL Caledon, which can carry about 4,500 20-foot boxes, operates as part of the South Africa Europe Container Service or SAECS, run by an alliance of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. of Japan, Germany’s DAL Deutsche Afrika-Linien GmbH and Maersk, the world’s top container shipper, together with the Copenhagen-based company’s Belgium-based Safmarine Container Lines NV.
SAECS, which serves the South African cities of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, switched its U.K. stop to London Gateway from the rival port of Tilbury, operated by Arcus Infrastructure Partners LLP’s Forth Ports Ltd. The service goes on to call at Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Bremerhaven, Germany.