The ports arm of the world"s largest container shipping company is considering its first investment in the UK after holding discussions with the operator of the Port of Bristol.
The ports arm of the world"s largest container shipping company is considering its first investment in the UK after holding discussions with the operator of the Port of Bristol. APM Terminals, part of Denmark"s AP Møller-Maersk, is considering working jointly with the Bristol Port Company on development of a new container terminal able to handle the world"s largest container ships.
A UK investment would bring APM Terminals into the largest northern European market, where it is unrepresented, while privately owned BPC would gain from APM"s far more extensive experience of container port operation.
However, both sides stress that progress depends both on the state of the world container shipping market, which is contracting at present, and capacity in the UK.
Two major UK container port projects ? at Felixstowe in Suffolk and at Shellhaven on the Thames ? are under construction. Another two projects have planning permission.
Simon Bird, chief executive of BPC, said the two companies had been working jointly for about a year on a feasibility study and ?we"ve reached agreement with APM Terminals on the principles to move forward?.
Any terminal would be able to handle about 1.5m 20-ft equivalent units (TEU) of containers annually, about 20 per cent of UK ports" annual turnover of containers in recent years.
Klaus Sejling, APM Terminals" vice-president for global business development, confirmed discussions had taken place, but said the main issue was timing.
?Now is not the best time to talk about a major infrastructure investment in the UK,? he said.
But BPC"s two owners, Terence Mordaunt and David Ord, are hoping with the container terminal to replicate their success in the market for moving cars.
After taking a 150-year lease on the facility from the local council in 1991, they invested heavily in facilities for handling vehicles, turning it into the UK"s busiest car import and export port.
Even though voyages to Bristol involve a substantial deviation from the main shipping route to northern Europe up the English Channel, BPC successfully argued the port"s proximity to some large manufacturing plants still made it a better choice than competitors such as Southampton.
In the container market, the company argues Bristol"s key advantage is that it is far closer than Felixstowe and Southampton ? the existing market leaders ? to the UK"s key distribution centres in the Midlands.