CALLS are being made for millions of pounds to be poured into Sunderland Port in a bid to ensure it remains competitive with regional rivals.
Although £4million was invested in the site last year, fears have been raised that more needs to be done to ensure the facility is able to exploit new opportunities.
Tories in the city argue Sunderland City Council needs to prioritise infrastructure at the port to ensure it does not lose business to the Port of Tyne.
They say an obvious option would be to bring in a commercial partner to part-own the port and invest heavily in it while the council retains a special share.
Councillor Robert Oliver, leader of the Sunderland Conservatives group, said: “The port has been successful in recent years in attracting new business, and significant investment has come its way in terms of new equipment.
“There will be many opportunities in the coming years and increased trade should be expected, but it will need more spending to improve the infrastructure.”
New opportunities in renewable energy, and the development of the New Wear Crossing and Local Enterprise Zone could help expansion continue.
Coun Oliver added: “The council committed £4million in the last year, which is welcome, but is significantly less than regional commercial rivals.”
In comparison, Port of Tyne, the UK’s largest car exporter, employs 12,000 people and has invested £120million in the last decade.
City Council leader Paul Watson, chairman of Port of Sunderland’s board, said the facility had enjoyed a significant investment programme that was already delivering real economic benefits to the city.
“The council is absolutely committed to developing Port of Sunderland, and making a strategic investment that will spur on its growth.
“Capital investment continues to be made to facilitate its growth, financial performance and attractiveness to inward investors, and we see investment to date as only the beginning.
“Further capital investment of £6.5million is planned for the port in the next two years, which will provide improved infrastructure and craneage capacity to support the port’s commercial development.”