SUNDERLAND’S port is facing a bright future after a boost in business.
The Port of Sunderland is set to return to profit in the next 12 months after a welcome growth in trade.
The mouth of the Wear has been bustling with ships in recent months, and Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson announced a turnaround in the port’s fortunes at a meeting of councillors.
“I’m absolutely delighted to say that we fully expect to see the port running at a surplus by the end of the next financial year,” he said.
“Members will be aware that for many years the council has supported the running costs of the port from council resources.
“Trade has steadily increased, thanks to a focus on the development of the port, over the last 12 months.”
Councillors from both sides of the chamber paid tribute to Port Director Matthew Hunt, who they credited with the port’s success.
Sunderland Tory leader Robert Oliver said he had recently visited the port and been impressed with the extent of the facility and the work of Mr Hunt.
He said the port was now in a strong position to drive forward when better economic times returned.
The port had turned a profit in 2007/08, but fell back into relying on council subsidies in subsequent years. It is now set to be back in profit by the end of 2012/13.
The future of the Port of Sunderland had previously been a controversial issue, with Tories unhappy with what they saw as a lack of progress there.
They had been calling on the council to do more to create jobs at the facility, the largest council-owned port in the country.
When plans to bring in a private partner failed, the council set up a Port Board to bring in outside expertise, and give private companies a stake and say in the running of the facility.
The port is hailed as having unique benefits, including almost instant access from the open sea to 3km of river and dock berths, development land, the city centre and its business and commercial sector close by with transport links to the rest of the region.
Mr Hunt took over the new role of port director in June 2010, moving from his role as commercial director at the Port of Tyne authority. Based in Capstan House in Barrack Street, he has been praised as the key driver behind developing the port.
Serving as a maintenance hub for new offshore windfarms in the North East is seen as one of the big opportunities facing the port in the coming years.