Sunderland’s port set for North Sea boom

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THE Port of Sunderland is set fair to cash in on a new wave of investment in the North Sea, says the man in charge.

Matthew Hunt has been at the helm of the city council-owned port for the last three and a half years and has overseen a major turn-around in its fortunes.

Port of Sunderland director Matthew Hunt.

Port of Sunderland director Matthew Hunt.

He believes the port is ideally situated to make the most of the new wave of investment planned.

“Knowing the Port of Sunderland, as everybody does, what has always struck me is the huge potential that Sunderland has,” he said.

“It has always been extremely obvious that here was a huge opportunity to develop something that has got a lot of natural advantages.

“We have got 260-odd acres of land here, with deepwater river births, and I can’t think of too many other ports anywhere in the world where you can walk within 15 minutes to the city centre.

“From there, you can get a train to the capital or get to an international airport quickly and cheaply.

“All the ingredients for a successful port have always been here.

Mr Hunt said the challenge is to make the most of the opportunities from new investment, without abandoning what the port has traditionally been good at.

“There are a lot of great things happening in the North Sea in terms of the off-shore wind, oil and gas and sub-sea sectors,” he said.

“When you look at the North Sea, there is a hell of a lot of investment going on there and we want to be part of that.

“There are significant market opportunities in those industries as well as the more traditional activities.”

Mr Hunt added that it was important to step back and analyse the business’s strengths.

“It is a highly competitive market, there are a lot of ports competing for business, so we really have to check out our advantages, look at the market and where we see the best value.

“We understand the markets that are open to us, and we are working towards developing our business plan.

“We can say to people ‘this is what we are going to do and when and this is how much we are going to charge you’. Being able to give people straight answers is really, really important.”

Recent investment has included a huge new Liebherr crane and increased storage capacity.

“The council has been massively supportive as we pull things together,” said Mr Hunt.

“The next big stage is to market the port as an inward investment location, especially in the light of what is happening in the North Sea in terms of the investment that is going in.”