It’s time to look at doing things differently, says Nolan Gray, business development director at the Port of Tyne. His suggestion? Making the most of the uncongested North Sea to bring your cargo closer to its final destination.

It can be a challenge for any of us to step out of our comfort zone but, thanks to rising disillusion with the ‘traditional’ ways, he believes many businesses are ready to change.

“We are in uncertain times, with many discussions around future trading arrangements, tariffs and so on. Importers and exporters want, above all, clarity, consistency and reliability. However, the traditional pattern of cargo arriving at the UK’s southernmost ports, then going on a long and often unpredictable road trip to a final destination hundreds of miles away, is no longer the answer,” he says.

“There is a temptation to say ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ – but often it is already broken. The obstacles to a smooth journey are mounting, from a shortage of trucks and drivers, to road congestion that holds up drivers for so long that they reach their maximum driving time and are forced to take their rest time.”

The Port of Tyne has launched a campaign to encourage shippers to think seriously about the coastal and shortsea shipping opportunities on offer. With regular services into the port from Europe and also heading up the UK east coast, this option offers predictability and consistency, says Gray.

“You can dramatically shorten the road leg of the journey. The road journey from South to North and to return, keeps a driver and truck occupied for two days, whereas one driver and truck operating out of the Port of Tyne can make as many as ten deliveries in the same time. Fewer miles and far less congestion add up to guaranteed delivery times, which are obviously crucial for lean manufacturing customers.”

The costs and consequences of increasing delays are being felt throughout the supply chain, he points out. The cost of being stuck in a traffic jam is put at £1 per truck, per minute, for a start. Hauliers often build in extra time to their schedule to be sure of meeting a timed delivery window – inevitably, that cost has to be passed on. On the other hand, missed deliveries can lead to costly delays in production. Added to this is the environmental cost, including CO2 emissions and damage.

The Port of Tyne has long been recognised as an expert in handling feeder and coastal shipping services – and in most people’s minds that has meant containers and bulks. However, the port has some excellent ro-ro options, says Gray. The Tyne handles a regular timetable of large car ro-ro ferries calling from all over Europe; as well as handling a steady flow of car imports and exports, they carry everything from train carriages to excavators.

“We recently received a high-speed boat for the police, which came in on a ro-ro vessel; recent exports via ro-ro have included ROVs and cranes,” he says. “Those services are established and the capacity already exists. It’s another example of a different route to market, a new way of doing things.”

Some factories, cargo owners and shippers are actively involved in their logistics planning and many work directly with the Port of Tyne, which helps create supply chain solutions that truly underpin their business success.

“We are keen to work with and support businesses; we focus on really understanding their needs and priorities in order to deliver more cost-effective, efficient solutions while reducing their carbon footprint,” says Gray.