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Supply chains between the UK and continental Europe received a shot in the arm today with a UK government £35m ($42.5m) subsidy package for transport operators,
And the port of Tilbury is set to begin operations at its new unaccompanied ro-ro terminal after yesterday’s berthing trials of a P&O ferry.
The UK government said today that 16 ferry routes between the UK and Europe, as well the UK and Northern Ireland had been designated as “Public Service Obligation Routes” for up to nine weeks, after rapid declines in freight and passenger traffic had threatened their operation and begun to disrupt supplies of essential goods such as food and medicines.
The £35m state aid will go to P&O Ferries, Eurotunnel, DFDS, Seatruck, Brittany Ferries and Stena Line, and will cover the following routes: Portsmouth-Santander, Portsmouth-Cherbourg, Poole-Bilbao, Dover-Dunkerque, Dover-Calais, Folkestone-Coquelles, Cairnryan-Larne, Tilbury-Zeebrugge, Teesport-Rotterdam Europoort, Hull-Rotterdam Europoort, Hull-Zeebrugge, Heysham-Warrenpoint, Rotterdam-Killingholme, Cairnryan-Belfast, Harwich-Rotterdam, Harwich-Hoek van Holland.
The Department of Transport said the actual amounts paid to each operator “will depend on the actual amount of capacity required and sold in each week”.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “From the very beginning of the outbreak, we have committed to do whatever it takes to minimise the disruption caused by COVID-19.
“By taking this action, we have helped protect the movement of goods and services in and out of the UK, safeguarding the flow of supplies across the union.”
Meeanwhile, at Tilbury, it has taken around a year to construct the £200m Tilbury2 unaccompanied ro-ro terminal, which yesterday completed the berthing trials of P&O Ferries Bore Song and Norstream and is set to formally open next week.
The facility will be operated in a joint-venture between P&O Ferries and Tilbury owner Forth Ports and has the capacity to process around 500,000 trailers a year.
P&O Ferries chief executive Janette Bell said: “The new berth will make our service faster and will guarantee that goods from Europe can be unloaded and continue their journey onto the M25 before the rush hour – a significant benefit for our customers.
“Tilbury2 will further strengthen the unrivalled connectivity we offer our customers along the entire east coast of England and demonstrates our commitment to making trade flow during this crisis and beyond,” she added.
There is also a plan to expand the rail head at the port to accommodate trains of up to 775 metres.
Forth Ports chief executive Charles Hammond said: “We are in unprecedented times, both in the UK and globally, and this new unaccompanied terminal at Tilbury2 will ensure that we keep the vital supplies coming into the country as safely as possible, not just now but long into the future.
“Being a freight only terminal ensures that there is less risk of driver infection and exposure for our own quay workers at the port.
“The additional capacity of 500,000 units with streamlined customs procedures will enhance national economic resilience I would like to thank our excellent team for achieving this milestone in such challenging times,” he said.