Harbour work could start by end of year

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Work to build the Yarmouth outer harbour could start by the end of the year, the firm appointed to build it said last night. East Port and Yarmouth Port Authority has named International Port Holdings as its preferred bidder to run the operation.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Work to build the Yarmouth outer harbour could start by the end of the year, the firm appointed to build it said last night.

East Port and Yarmouth Port Authority has named International Port Holdings as its preferred bidder to run the operation.

The firm is a new venture spearheaded by Australian Alistair Baillie, a former chief operating officer at P&O Ports, and Eliza O'Toole, a city lawyer specialising in major infrastructure developments.

It was set up in May and has the financial backing of Englefield Capital, a London based equity firm.

Mr Baillie said IPH was looking to invest £25m into the scheme initially, on top of the £18m of public funding already committed, though this would double later on. It would also take over the running of the existing river port from the Port Authority as part of the deal.

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"It's a very exciting development," he said. "We hope we will be commencing construction before the end of the year and seeing the completion of the harbour effectively at the beginning of 2008.

"We are very pleased that Yarmouth is the first - it will remain the primary one. Our strategy isn't to do too many, but we would like to do three or four such projects."

He said the goal of the business was to expand the commercial operation and contribute to the overall regeneration of the area, while the next step was to attract a ferry operator to the port.

Other key parts of the business would be the construction and decommissioning of North Sea oil and gas platforms, and short sea shipping

Stephen Eldred, chairman of Yarmouth Port Authority, said the final shortlist was whittled down to two firms, but IPH carried the day.

"Both bids were of a high standard, however International Port Holdings' proposals were the most economically advantageous," he said, adding that they were particularly impressed with the clarity of their business proposals and their readiness to proceed quickly to close the contract and start construction.

The firm now has until the end of the month to tidy up a serious of contractual points before a formal memorandum of understanding is agreed. That will provide the basis upon which the parties intend to work together to complete the final contracts.

Peter Hardy, executive director of East Port said: "The next four weeks will be critical in ensuring that we can move the negotiations forward from this outline understanding towards a robust contractual position. On the basis of our discussions with IPH to date, I am confident that this can be achieved."

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright said the move and the creation of a new urban regeneration company covering both Yarmouth and Lowestoft mean the future looked bright for both towns.

"I am delighted that under this government the harbour will soon be a reality - bringing a better economy with more jobs and greater investment in the regeneration of the town and area alike," he said.