World-class Manchester multimodal hub to transform UK logistics
In the UK, ambitious plans are afoot to transform a 75 acre brownfield site on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal into a world-class multimodal port hub that "has the potential to change the way that the UK’s occupiers think about logistics."
The new £500 million Port Bridgewater site, on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in North West England, will be an example of port centric logistics, a supply chain management concept where containers are unloaded at the port and its contents then transported inland, for example as palletised freight.
The new hub will allow for more than 1,000,000sq.ft of multi modal storage space, diversifying and strengthening private real estate firm Peel Ports offering, across a variety of sectors.
The area is the site of a former paper mill that existed at Ellesmere Port, a large industrial town and port in Cheshire, Greater Manchester.
Councillor Mike Jones, Leader of Chester and Cheshire West Council, said: “We have the opportunity to create a real catalyst for change in the world of logistics. The new port facilities will open up access to new worldwide markets.”
Estate agents Jones Lang LaSalle and B8 Real Estate have been appointed to masterplan the project.
The development plans will transform the brownfield site into a multimodal port hub. Once completed, it will allow Peel Ports to offer customers an enhanced port centric logistics solution, which capitalises on excellent connections to the UK’s major transport networks.
An existing operating berth on the Ship Canal connects it directly to the Port of Liverpool via Peel Ports’ container shuttle service, and the rail network is easily accessed with an on-site branch line. Direct access to the UK’s motorway network comes by way of junction 7 of the M53 which is within 750 metres of the site gate.
Tom Davis, Partner at B8 Real Estate, said: “Rarely does a site of such scale and flexibility come to the market and we are delighted to be working with Peel Ports to deliver their vision of transforming UK logistics.
“The former Bridgewater paper mill site responds to the need for large building footprints and is linked back to the Port of Liverpool and Liverpool2 – the post-Panamax deep water terminal currently under construction in the River Mersey. The Liverpool2 terminal will double container capacity at the port when it opens for business in 2015.
"With an existing planning consent for port use, the site can be developed quickly and is set to be a major force in UK logistics.”
Richard Evans, Industrial and Logistics Director at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: “The site has the potential to change the way that the UK’s occupiers think about logistics. We have the ability to deliver a 75 acre site, with excellent road, rail and water access linked back to Liverpool2. UK logistics is changing and this site will be at the forefront of that change”
This development is a significant part of Peel Ports’ wider development plans for the Port of Liverpool and Manchester Ship Canal, which include a number of multimodal port hub developments.
Peel Ports is strategically located to serve the whole of the UK, with five major gateways from Clydeport to Medway handling a broad spectrum of international trade amounting to over 65million tonnes of cargo a year.
Andrew Martin, Head of Land and Property at Peel Ports, said: “We are pleased to announce that Jones Lang LaSalle and B8 Real Estate have been appointed to market the Port Bridgewater site. Following its acquisition in 2011 the site has been cleared and with the support of the local authority, Cheshire West and Cheshire Council, it has been granted consent for redevelopment for Port use.
“Unrivalled flexibility is provided through existing rail and water links, enhanced by direct access to the region’s motorway network. The site provides the perfect platform for port centric development linked to the new Liverpool2 terminal.”
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector