£2.3million new plant approved for Port of Sunderland to capitalise on new growth industry

A new £2.3million facility will be built at the Port of Sunderland as a new business moves in to capitalise on the growth in the liquid fertiliser import market.

Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 4:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 5:56 pm
Picture of the Port of Sunderland issued by Creo

East Anglia-based firm Brineflow Ltd lodged plans for a new facility at Young’s Quay on the Hudson Dock.

This includes an import, processing and distribution terminal on Wearside to expand its business providing fertilisers to the agricultural industry.

Shipments of concentrated fertiliser will be diluted and stored at the port before being transported by road to farmers and growers.

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The plans aim to help Brineflow Ltd expand its customer base to the North East and Scottish Borders.

At a meeting to decide the application this week, Sunderland City Council’s area development control sub-committee backed the plans.

Physical structures on site include eight holding tanks measuring up to 17 metres high, site buildings, a bund wall to capture spillages, an electric pumping station and a “swirl chamber” to dilute chemicals.

The terminal will also see around nine to 12 ship visits per year, with road deliveries varying from season to season.

According to planning documents, the development represents a £2.3million investment into a “high throughput port related use.”

At the meeting, councillors were reassured that fertilisers were non-hazardous, non-flammable and non-odorous.

Growth industry

John Fuller OBE, chairman of Brineflow Ltd, said there was a growing market for liquid fertilisers with Sunderland representing a “big opportunity” for expansion.

He noted that council work to boost business at the port in the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC) project influenced the decision to set up in Sunderland.

Mr Fuller told the meeting: “This is a growing market and we would like to develop this in the way we have done in Norfolk , East Anglia and the South East.

“We see quite a big opportunity here in the borders and the North East to do it again.

“We’re very impressed with the way the port has been very proactive and professional.

“We were looking at another port but when we saw [the Northern Spire] nearly finished 18 months ago it made it a pretty easy decision.”

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “Sunderland is ideally located to complement our existing operations in the South and East of the country.

“Port of Sunderland is able to handle the most common size of tanker ships found in European waters and is best placed to help us develop the rapidly expanding market for liquid nitrogen fertilisers in the North East and the Borders with renewed road infrastructure and a significant number of experienced local hauliers.”

Mr Fuller said a key influencer in Brineflow’s decision to invest in Port of Sunderland was the improved transport links connecting the port to the region’s major road networks, such as the A19 and the A1.

The opening of the Northern Spire bridge – coupled with the improvement of surrounding roads - has significantly improved road connectivity to the multi-modal hub and has led to a rise in the number of firms exporting and importing goods via the port over the last 12 months.

‘Welcome to Sunderland’

Coun Amy Wilson, cabinet member for environment and transport, welcomed the plans at the meeting.

“I think this application fits in with what we want in the city and fits in with what we have in our local plan,” she said.

“I know planning officers said the road layout is fine to take this, but it will be even better when SSTC phase 3 is finished.

“They will be straight from the port up on to the A19 to wherever they need to take these [products].”

Coun Michael Dixon added: “Congratulations, it’s great news for the port and I think everyone wishes it well.”

The application follows approved plans for a similiar Brineflow Ltd facility at Great Yarmouth Energy Park to help supply farmers and growers in eastern England.

Following discussion, the new hub at Sunderland Port was passed with a unanimous vote.

Sub-committee chairman, Coun Phil Tye, closing the meeting, added: “Welcome to Sunderland.”

Speaking after the meeting, Port of Sunderland director, Matthew Hunt, said: “Port of Sunderland is a fantastic location for businesses that are looking for excellent connectivity and handling capabilities, and we’re seeing the market respond to that, with a number of enquiries from businesses looking to establish a base on our estate.

“The traction that the port is gathering, and the continued investment being made by the council in both the port estate and the wider city, has provided a major boost to us.

“Add to that the ongoing work at the £400million International Advanced Manufacturing Park and the redevelopment of the Vaux site, and it’s proving to be a very exciting time for the city and everyone involved with it.”

Why the market is growing

Mr Fuller said: “The Liquid fertiliser market is growing fast as farms increase in size and become more mechanised.

“Liquid fertilisers have many environmental advantages compared with the solid fertilisers traditionally used in the UK partly because they do away with the single-use plastic fertiliser bags.

“They are safer to use and store and farmers can apply even in windy conditions which helps them manage their crops in the most timely manner.”