Symbolic step for Yarmouth Outer Harbour

Political leaders last night welcomed news that the giant gantry cranes for the container terminal at Yarmouth's �50m outer harbour will be arriving on May 1.

Political leaders last night welcomed news that the giant gantry cranes for the container terminal at Yarmouth's �50m outer harbour will be arriving on May 1.

The converted barge carrying them will be the first vessel to dock in the port, symbolising the completion of a project predicted eventually to create hundreds of jobs directly and indirectly.

The installation of the cranes will pave the way for the container terminal - a joint venture between EastPort UK's parent company International Port Holdings and the Port of Singapore - to begin operating on July 1.

Vessels up to 200m or longer with a draft of 10m will then begin delivering through the port 20ft and 40ft containers containing everything from children's toys to liquor and food stuffs.

The terminal will cater for both the short sea trade bringing container vessels from Dutch, Belgian and German ports and mid sea trade from destinations as far away as the Caribbean, South Africa and the east Mediterranean.

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A further two cranes are likely to be added in a second phase of the terminal, the timescale depending on the port's success.

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright said the arrival of the cranes would be 'a hugely symbolic moment', heralding the completion of a project for which Norfolk had been battling for decades.

Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox said: 'I welcome this significant milestone towards the completion of the outer harbour. Despite the economic situation, we are seeing continued investment into the town and a confidence that Yarmouth is a great place to do business. I look forward to seeing the outer harbour operate and the significant benefits it will bring to the whole of Norfolk.'

Borough council deputy leader Barry Stone said: 'The arrival of the first ship in the new harbour will be one of the best things to happen for Yarmouth in many years.

'It is not the best time economically to be opening a new container port but we are still very positive. It will be the shortest route to Europe and it is quite possible people might switch to us to achieve savings on time.

'Things are coming together very nicely and the town's next big project will be the building of the large casino.'

It had originally been planned to open the new harbour for shipping this month. It is understood the delay has been caused by the decision taken last August to develop an extra 300m of quay for general cargo activity.

The move of 30 port staff from their present riverside headquarters - a former merchant house - to offices in the former Omni Pac egg carton factory on South Denes, close to the new harbour, has also been put back to July.

Will Waters, executive editor of leading industry publication International Freighting Weekly (IFW), said it was not unusual for infrastructure projects on such a large scale to suffer delays.

However, he said the recession meant container volumes were down significantly at the moment so there would not be such an immediate demand from shipping lines seeking less congested ports.

Blob. EastPort UK will today be heading a Great Yarmouth Marketing Initiative stand at the prestigious European Wind Energy Conference and exhibition at Marseilles.

It is thought the harbour will be well placed to profit from the burgeoning wind energy sector with Yarmouth being close to major areas of planned windfarm construction, and with the town already having a pool of staff skilled in the energy field.