A mouth-watering battle is shaping up as DP World’s London Gateway unleashes its marketing might to convince Asia's shippers that it presents a better entry point into the UK than any other port [i.e. Felixstowe].
There is a map produced by London Gateway that draws a line through England from just above the Thames estuary to just north of Liverpool. South of the line is the area claimed by London Gateway where is maintains 78 percent of the market lies. A small red bulge is the area given to Felixstowe that has just two percent of the market, and the other 20 percent is a neutral area up for grabs by both ports.
The map’s intention is to show how using London Gateway can save shippers time, and therefore money, by providing better access to the customer base in London and the South East, the country’s largest consumer market and population centre.
London Gateway will open in the last quarter of next year and recently completed an Asia roadshow selling the port to shippers and forwarders in the region. It is continuing the marketing campaign in the UK, planning press and customer meetings and extolling the virtues of signing up to use the new port.
Throughout this media blitz, Felixstowe has remained remarkably quiet. On second thoughts, there is nothing remarkable about it. Hutchison Port Holdings has always taken a taciturn approach to the media, its standard response to press enquiries being: “We don’t comment on operational issues”. Or strategic issues, or rumours.
Now would be a good time for Felixstowe to come out swinging, or at least to get Hutchison’s irascible boss John Meridith to dismiss London Gateway’s claims to most of the UK and insist that it is, in fact, Felixstowe, which is closer/faster/taller/has more hair, etc
Of course it is not the zero sum game the media routinely make it out to be. Every box through London Gateway will not be a box lost to Felixstowe. Each customer shipping goods into the UK will have their own supply chain strategy. Some may want a port closer to their market, others may require more warehousing and a distribution centre or port-centric set-up.
Nevertheless, it is an intriguing battle and should provide a decent amount of grist to our editorial mill. Seeing new ports opening up is no big deal in China but it is pretty special for such a large gateway to be built in a developed economy, especially one so infrastructure-resistant as the UK.