Port’s going down a storm

Director of the Port of Sunderland, Matthew Hunt

Director of the Port of Sunderland, Matthew Hunt

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A DOZEN ships are docked on Wearside as business continues to grow at the Port of Sunderland.

The vessels were alongside for repairs, loading, discharging or just laid up.

Barges/ships tied up on the River Wear in Sunderland on Saturday.,

Barges/ships tied up on the River Wear in Sunderland on Saturday.,

Once a world leader in shipbuilding, the Wear is now quiet – making such a number of ships visiting at present an unusual sight.

Sunderland City Council said business at the port is continuing to grow, and hopes are high that the facility has a bright future.

“We are delighted to welcome an increasing number of vessels and customers into the Port of Sunderland,” said director Matthew Hunt.

“Our port has some unique benefits, which we hope will attract even more potential clients into the city.

“These include 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 and excellent transport links to the rest of the region.”

The council is working to further boost the port’s fortunes, with a renewed focus on the facility.

Mr Hunt was appointed last year to drive the port forward and continue to grow business.

The council has also set up a Port Board to bring in outside expertise, and give private companies a stake and say in the running of the facility.

Mr Hunt added: “The Port of Sunderland has a hugely important role to play in the continued regeneration of our city, and we hope that we can continue this latest influx of ships into the port.”

Not everyone is content with the council’s efforts at the port.

Before the Port Board was set up, Sunderland Conservatives had been pressing for the port to be privatised to help maximise the number of jobs provided there.

The council had tried to find a private partner to work with it at the port, but to no avail.

Sunderland Tory group leader Coun Tony Morrissey welcomed the number of ships visiting the port this week, but said more needed to be done.

“I was down there on Sunday walking the dog and I saw five or six ships there. It was quite impressive.

“Broadly speaking, though, I would say that a full port is a very occasional occurrence.

“The port is still a big area of desolation which needs to be regenerated.”

Sunderland Conservatives’ port spokesman Coun Lee Martin suggested bringing the port together with the Vaux site, Farringdon Row and Stadium Park areas to become an Enterprise Zone providing tax breaks for businesses.