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Dover gain is Portsmouth pain

Geest Line is to switch its UK gateway calls on the English south coast from Portsmouth to Dover

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According to Geest Line, the move to Dover has been prompted by the need to accommodate revised scheduling times involving the weekend discharge of cargoes. The company said the move will not affect the 32 staff at its Fareham (near Portsmouth) HQ.

Geest added had it had looked into switching its operation to Southampton, but there was insufficient space available.

Captain Peter Dixon, managing director of Geest Line, said: “We are advised there is currently spare capacity in Southampton only for storing and handling around 1,000 pallets, whereas we typically require space for around 4,500 pallets. Dover can provide this.”

Southampton and close-by Portsmouth are the most convenient ports for the banana ripening rooms that Geest uses near Basingstoke, Hants, so moving calls to Dover involves extra truck transport costs.

Geest is replacing its fleet of four charter vessels with five larger and newer ships, increasing capacity by over 40%. From this month, two port calls in Colombia have been added for fruit loading, while a new stop at Vlissingen will help with North Continent freight and imports and exports.

Captain Dixon added: “Our new logistics require a switch of days for handling eastbound arrivals in England from Sunday to Friday. This would have been the first scheduling change impacting Portsmouth in our 16 years at the port.

“The port operator [MMD Shipping] has advised us that their teams are regrettably unable to handle our revised schedule so we have had no choice but, reluctantly, to relocate. We would like to thank all the stevedores, other port operatives, hauliers and supply chain contacts for their hard work over the years we have been at Portsmouth.

“At the same time, we look forward to working through Dover, which has an exciting port development due to open in spring 2019 that should make it an ideal partner for the Geest Line operations as well as being able to handle our requirements immediately.

Geest Line has been an exclusively Europe-to-Caribbean freight operator for more than 50 years, with weekly westbound sailings from the south of England and Le Havre.

Its fleet handles all kinds of general cargo from perishables to large project machinery, both container and breakbulk, returning from the Caribbean with fruit, mainly bananas, for the UK and European markets.

The problem for Portsmouth International Port, the local council-owned port that owns MMD, was that it is handling two other scheduled ship calls when Geest Line wanted to call.

Mike Sellers, MMD Director said: “We are very disappointed that we couldn’t find a solution to accommodate the changes to Geest’s shipping rotation. This sadly means we have to look at how we operate and our main priority now is to reduce the impact directly on staff and our customers.

“I speak for both ourselves and Geest that we thoroughly investigated every option and reluctantly concluded that a mutually workable arrangement could not be found.

“Sadly the options given to accommodate a new shipping schedule would mean operating at a loss for our business.

“Geest has been a valued customer for 16 years and while we are disappointed to lose them we will use this as an opportunity to secure more profitable contracts.”

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