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Friday, January 17, 2020

Wega and Common SpiritPD ports is one of those names you may not have heard of, and have heard even less, perhaps, of their multi-national parent organisation Brookfield, but this massive company with $200 billions in assets is worth more than some countries.

Their website points out they have a 100-year history of both owning their own and operating the assets of others and are currently focussing around the globe on renewable energy, private equity, property and infrastructure projects, including ports.

Their port interests and terminals are currently spread across Europe with some in China and Australia but they are especially signifi cant in the UK because, through strategic acquisitions, they control Teesport and Hartlepool with ancillary sites at Billingham. Down at the Humber they control Howdendyke and Keadby wharfage while having a signifi cant presence at Hull, Immingham, Felixstowe and the Thames. Intriguingly, they also have the Medina Wharf at Cowes, Isle of Wight, but it is the Tees and its role in serving the major industries nearby that is their major UK asset.

My recent visit to the Tees was an eye opener as heavy industry, becoming rare in the UK, is still visible there and is seen in the traffics it brings to the ports and especially the export trades, another UK rarity these days. When I arrived at Redcar in the lee of the largest blast furnace in Europe, I could see that today, Tees Bay forms one of the UK’s largest anchorages. There I counted 15 vessels including VLCCs and shuttle tankers, a large ore carrier and smaller tonnage waiting for a berth in the Tees. I heard a report that some of the larger crude oil cargoes could be waiting for a hike in the oil price before heading for a discharge port.

The Tees is also a major container feeder terminal. The fi rst arrival of the day I witnessed was a regular, the Sietas built German flag Wega 7,550,’96 linking Zeebrugge to Immingham, the Tees, Tyne and Grangemouth and Rotterdam. Then came short sea product tankers in and out, the Norwegian flag Tarco Sea from Kristiansand and the Annette Essberger off to Rotterdam. Three tugs passed out toward the Bay where the first of a trio of the day’s bulk cargo ships with deck gear was approaching. She appeared light but then veered North toward Hartlepool where she would need all three Svitzer tugs to turn her and moor her stern in. I would see her later as the Virginia 28,029,’01 and found she was bringing a part cargo of ‘rutile sand’ which has to be of high value given the towage cost. Amongst other uses it is an ingredient of refractories needed for smelting and it is used in the production of titanium metal. The Japanese built Virginia seems to have loaded this valuable commodity in Geraldton, Australia, and had called at Castellon and Rotterdam before her final delivery at Hartlepool. She would return to Rotterdam when completed.

Virginia Meanwhile, having docked the Virginia, the tugs returning to Teesport passed on their way the departing Greek owned and flagged, Chinese built, Common Spirit 32,987,’11. She sailed purposefully at the top of the tide, as well she might as she was not only down to her marks she was on her way to Thailand, to Prachuap which is the HQ of Sahaviriya Steel Industries Ltd, the Thai company that now operate the Redcar steel making plant. They bought the mothballed Redcar works back in 2010, reactivated it and were now shipping slab steel to the Far East.

Redcar has exported over 5mn tons since the furnace was relit. On her way out of Tees Bay she would pass another similar type of vessel, also Chinese built, owned in Rostock from whence she had arrived, the Warnow Mars, 22,863,’11. She has quite a distinctive superstructure, boxy with no recognisable funnel, just an exhaust. She too was due to load, this time it was to be steel pipe and in a few days she was rostered for Port Said.

Later at Hartlepool, I would witness Virginia being worked, on a Sunday too, while ahead of her also in from Rotterdam was a Wagenborg hull, the Doggersbank 3,990,’06, of Delfzijl which had also offl oaded ‘rutile sand’ transhipped from Rotterdam and she would then sail for orders.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - October 2014 Issue
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