'Port will deliver'

Moves were made this week to dispel false fears that Great Yarmouth's container terminal will bring few jobs and nose-to-tail lorries clogging the town.

Moves were made this week to dispel false fears that Great Yarmouth's container terminal will bring few jobs and nose-to-tail lorries clogging the town.

Although the recession will slow the pace of initial growth, council chiefs this week told the Mercury that the outer harbour will open up new opportunities and create blue-collar jobs as vessels six times larger than those we see already choose Yarmouth.

With Lowestoft already established as a centre for renewable energy, the option of large wind turbines being shipped and assembled in the town as projects are approved elsewhere in Norfolk was a real possibility.

And the outer harbour development is set to further consolidate Yarmouth's position as a major player in the oil and gas industry. Executive director of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Peter Hardy, also gave assurances that the 500 extra lorry movements likely to be generated by the outer harbour once it is operational would still be less than those made by Norfolk Line in its heyday.

He said the lorries would be a 'noticeable' increase on the 24,000 regular vehicles already ploughing up and down the riverside, but that they would be mostly at night avoiding rush-hour bottlenecks.

Container traffic will be encouraged to take the route over Haven Bridge where they quickly link up with an industrial area, he added, on their way in all likelihood to the Midlands.

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At a meeting with Mr Hardy and borough council general manager Richard Packham, the council revealed that its bid to compulsory purchase the so-called 12-acre 'tank and tents' site next to the power station was being blocked by the landlord and likely to go to a public inquiry, although a date has yet to be set.

Mr Hardy said: 'People are looking for economies of scale. You are very much a niche port if you cannot handle that. Anything that is small enough to go in the river still will. But this will strengthen Yarmouth's strategic and geographical position.'

He added that the council was in very regular contact with EastPort but that balancing the public interest with commercially sensitive information was a difficult act.

'My view is the long term. The most significant fact is that the Port of Singapore (PSA) - the second largest container company in the world - is sending us these cranes and that is the test.'

He added that EastPort was an entirely commercial operation - that had had 'brilliant success' delivering on its �18m of public funding, and that it could not expect to be 'free and easy' with sensitive information despite the huge public interest.

The spectacle of the large cranes is providing locals with a photo-opportunity but when the harbour is operational the best views will probably be from Gorleston cliffs, while officials decide on the best place for a lookout, Mr Hardy added.

Crucially it is the first time PSA, who have a huge presence in northern Europe and handle a large percentage of Europe's trade, have invested in the UK in a strategic move that gives them the shortest crossing by far to their hub ports.

'As far as we are concerned, to have a container port is excellent news,' Mr Hardy said.

The roll-on roll-off ferry business had been recession-hit but would be a big employer once the market recovered, he added.

Philip Watkins, 1st East Chief Executive, said: 'The town has been waiting for the new outer harbour for many years and it represents a multi-million pound investment in Great Yarmouth by the public/private sector partnership that has now made it a reality.

'EastPort UK is a central component of the economic regeneration of the town, and is ideally placed to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the burgeoning environmental economy and I'm sure will quickly respond to those emerging market opportunities. EastPort UK is not accelerating decline but providing the opportunity to reverse it, based I am sure on sound commercial drivers to provide long term, sustainable economic growth for the port and the town.'