Offshore is the future for us, says Yarmouth outer harbour boss

PASSENGER ferries to Holland will not be sailing from Great Yarmouth any time soon, as bosses say the industry is struggling with the Eurozone crisis.

But EastPort UK's confident new chief executive has devised a strategy to create jobs at the �40m outer harbour, and it will not involve the return of the �30m container cranes - removed in 2010.

The outer harbour, originally designed to be a container terminal, is undergoing work to make it the leading centre for offshore support work in the east of England.

Following 'a significant investment', the 200m entrance to the harbour will be narrowed to 150m to reduce swell within, and light towers erected to allow large offshore vessels to safely lift equipment - some weighing more than 200 tonnes.

A contractor has already been mobilised, and the work is due to be completed by the end of the year.

The port had pledged to create around 1,000 new jobs when EastPort took control in 2007, but has not come close to these ambitions in the climate of recession.

Jamie Frater, who took over as chief executive from Eddie Freeman in May, is urging people to give him time to do his job.

Most Read

'Everybody wants Yarmouth to be successful and we're all working together to drive business towards Yarmouth,' he said. 'The emphasis is going to be on the offshore sector - I've got that pretty clear, at least for the outer harbour.'

He added a schedule for growth is not fixed 'as the goalposts keep moving', but the company is looking forward to what the sector's priorities will be in two years time. Recommissioning and decommissioning of oil and gas rigs will be a factor, he said, adding that narrowing the harbour entrance and improving lighting will attract investors.

'There's a choppy swell and it will reduce that,' said Mr Frater. 'The offshore sector is specialist stuff, big heavy lifts, and when you're lifting 200 plus tonnes you need to make sure the sea currents are very calm.

'It's a significant investment to further improve the development of the outer harbour so we're best placed to serve the new business that's going to be coming.

'These modifications are really improving what was designed to be a container terminal.'

He says he is strengthening his sales team and has been in talks with Simon Gray, the new chief executive of the East of England Energy Group, and business leaders from across the offshore sector.

And he says Yarmouth will have the edge over the nearest rival ports - at Lowestoft and Harwich, Essex - due to what the river port can offer.

'If we look at the industries, the river can support the outer harbour,' said Mr Frater.

'We can get larger vessels in the harbour and smaller crew change vessels in the river.

'We are positive we can get something out of offshore - I can see there are business models there and we're going to be successful.'

He explained he ruled out containers as there was not enough demand - with Felixstowe's new south terminal taking all the work and plans underway for the ambitious London Gateway container terminal.

'We don't see a future in containers,' he added.

He added it is also not viable to run ferries in the current economic climate.

'Ferry volumes have dropped - for example at Immingham - as a consequence of the Eurozone crisis,' said Mr Frater. 'It's very bad at the moment.

'I wouldn't say we would never look at ferries, but we would need the European economy to recover.'

He added he was keen to attend community group meetings about the port when he is invited.

'I want to work with everybody as that's what Yarmouth needs,' he vowed.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter