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‘Quay’ workers applauded as port sees uplift in business during lockdown

Leaders of a North East port have heaped praise on the unsung key workers supporting supply chains that keep goods flowing in and out of the UK, after seeing a surge in business during lockdown. 

Councillor Graeme Miller, chair of the Port of Sunderland board, and Matthew Hunt, Port Director, said that teams involved in the operations of UK ports have worked tirelessly, to ensure that the flow of imported and exported goods have been fully supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Between March 23 and April 30, the port handled some 34,000 tonnes of bulk – dry and liquid – cargo; 48,000 tonnes of unitised import cargo, including steel and woodpulp; as well as supporting a project cargo export – a knocked down Liebherr crane - and almost 20 offshore vessels, utilising the port for bunker operations, demobilisation and mobilisation activities, crew changes and repairs.

Cllr Graeme Miller, who is Leader of Sunderland City Council which owns the port, said that colleagues at his port – and others across the UK – have ensured that critical supply chains have been maintained during this period of huge challenge. 

He said: “The efforts of the Port of Sunderland team are to be applauded. Port of Sunderland is growing a reputation as a hugely welcoming port, that will move mountains to support its customers, and its flexibility and support during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates how the team have been able to support a surge in business during this period only serves to prove how determined Port of Sunderland is to deliver for its customers.”

The port industry in this country is the second largest in Europe, handling almost 500 million tonnes of freight each year. Much of the cargo entering and leaving Britain is in the form of raw materials like oil, chemicals, petroleum, ores, grains and feedstuffs – commodities needed to fuel the economy - as well as ‘finished goods cargo’ which includes fresh foods and consumer goods. 

Mr Hunt, whose port has welcomed vessels from New York, Northern Spain, the Black Sea, Denmark, Sweden and Germany during the lockdown, said: “In spite of the hugely challenging circumstances of recent weeks, Port of Sunderland has remained open and has met an uplift in operational demand, which is remarkable when you consider the conditions we are operating under.

“The team has been absolutely incredible.  The way in which they have come together to get through this period of huge demand for port services and infrastructure - still able to look after our customers to the highest standard – means port personnel really should be recognised as being among those key workers that we credit for keeping the country going.”

Port of Sunderland offers deep water berths minutes from open sea, 24/7 access, development sites, city centre connectivity and a single owner-operator model.  The port has invested heavily in additional development sites, storage facilities and materials handling capacity over recent years – capacity that has enabled it to meet upsurges in demand as experienced over recent weeks. 

Other enhancements have included the reconnection of Port of Sunderland’s rail infrastructure to the national rail network and enabling engineering works for 20 acres of Enterprise Zone development area in the port.

Councillor Milled added: “The port team works tirelessly, every single day of the year, to support the flow of goods in and out of the city, and they deserve huge credit for their efforts during this difficult time.

“The resilience and determination of Sunderland workers is something that is world-renowned and that continues to shine through, even in the darkest of periods.  I’m phenomenally proud of everyone at our port.”