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Massive vessel bound for new Yarmouth harbour

PUBLISHED: 07:32 22 April 2009 | UPDATED: 09:05 06 July 2010

The first vessel to enter Yarmouth's £50m outer harbour is likely to be the biggest ever to visit the port.

The 234m Zhen Hua 6 is scheduled to complete its marathon journey from China via Hong Kong, around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, on May 1, when it docks in the harbour to unload two giant cranes for the container terminal.

The first vessel to enter Yarmouth's £50m outer harbour is likely to be the biggest ever to visit the port.

The 234m Zhen Hua 6 is scheduled to complete its marathon journey from China via Hong Kong, around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, on May 1, when it docks in the harbour to unload two giant cranes for the container terminal.

The vessel, the most recent of six designed specially to carry container cranes, is currently in the Canaries but should be visible, mooring off the coast, from about April 26.

A team will be flying in from China to install the cranes, together worth about £7m, in a commissioning process likely to take two months.

The harbour is expected to launch its commercial trade in July when larger vessels servicing the offshore industry begin to use it.

Work on the harbour has been protracted by the decision, announced last August, to build an extra 350m of quay to handle general cargoes, and contractors Edmund Nuttall are now expected to be still on site until December.

Eddie Freeman, chief executive of EastPort UK, paid tribute to the co-operation of all partners - including the borough and county councils and government agencies - in achieving the harbour's completion.

He said: “It has been a big civic effort. It was not easy to make it happen and I know a lot of environments where it would not have happened.”

Mr Freeman admitted the shipping industry was as difficult as he had known it in 35 years and EastPort - like every other company involved in the business - was being forced to batten down its hatches as tightly as possible.

A decline in cargo volumes had led to a handful of posts being made redundant at EastPort Cargo Handling, formerly Great Yarmouth Stevedoring Company, but redundancies had so far been avoided among the 60-plus staff working for EastPort.

They were still expanding the notion of the business considerably, with the extra stretch of quay increasing the harbour's flexibility to meet the needs of numerous trades.

He said: “Despite the economic conditions, we have continued to strengthen our sales team to sell hard. No one would want to open a port in the middle of a recession. But there is an argument to say the only way is up.”

Mr Freeman said they were actively talking to potential users of the container facilities - a joint venture between EastPort's parent company International Port Holdings and the Port of Singapore - but he acknowledged that the global container business had shrunk by at least 20pc in the recession and they would have to be patient.

He highlighted the potential of the port to play an important role in the burgeoning offshore wind industry and said Yarmouth needed to strongly market itself in the sector, with its existing offshore expertise and ideal geographical location close to major development areas.

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