In Ferry World this month I comment on the longer distance short-sea routes being environmentally most desirable, and backing this up, the EU, since the millennium, have had a policy to divert traffics from road to sea, waterway and rail.
There has been EU cash help for several continental routes from what is termed the European “Motorways of the Sea” budget, notably in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and Zeebrugge- Bilbao. I suspect the UK Government failed to be terribly pro-active in securing much benefit for the UK, but in August last year, Forth Ports PLC announced a grant for their Tilbury operation to commence a new Bilbao-Tilbury link under this heading, which would divert long haul Spanish HGV traffic onto the sea.
The project will cost £25mn, of which a £2.5mn grant goes to Bilbao and £3.36mn to Tilbury for new cranes, straddle carriers, port surfacing and ‘IT’ systems to co-ordinate with the Spanish port. It is estimated the investment should divert 225 million kms of HGV traffic from road to sea over 15 years. The project has to be completed in two years.
It will make the port of Tilbury, with its 34 berths and 16 independent terminals, even more strategic in supplying large parts of the UK with fresh produce, much of which will be co-ordinated by long standing Iberia specialist Macandrews.
Macandrews is one of those innovative trading companies that the UK used to specialise in, which commenced in 1770 when 18 year old Scot William McAndrew left Elgin to commence trading in fruit from Spain, Portugal and the Azores, the growing family firm ordering their first ship in 1857. Changing the name from McAndrew to Macandrew was said to make it easier for the Spanish and Portuguese to pronounce and spell. The company was sold to the Royal Mail group in 1917, and then to Andrew Weir in 1935, entering WW2 with 20 ships and losing nine.
When their lovely fleet of motor ships became obsolete they increasingly focussed on chartering. Sold by Andrew Weir in 2003 they have become another British world business acquired abroad, this time by French shipping and transport giant CMA-CGM of Marseilles. They presently serve via weekly and bi-weekly services, utilising specialised pallet and reefer containers, the UK and Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Poland, Scandinavia, and Russia.