I recently had the pleasure of visiting Associated British Ports (ABP) and Siemens in the Port of Hull. These two companies provide thousands of jobs for the city of Hull and the wider Yorkshire & Humber region, as well as being key sponsors of the Hull City of Culture 2017.
At ABP, I met the Port Director, Simon Bird, who kindly gave me a tour of the port’s operations. As one of the main trading ports in the UK and the country’s first all-weather terminal, it provides 8,000 jobs and contributes £538 million to the local economy.
The sheer scale of its operations are very impressive indeed, with over 100,000 tons of containers handled every year and some 70 million tons of goods passing through the massive King George Dock. This includes softwood timber from Northern Europe and Scandinavia; a range of paper products and forest products; fish from local trawlers; a wide range of perishables; a variety of edible oils, petroleum-based and chemical products; and animal feed, cement and steel. Furthermore, most of Ireland’s exports to continental Europe transit via the Humber ports.
As well as facilitating the export and import of goods, ABP Hull provides Yorkshire’s only passenger service with daily crossings to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge. It also has regular services to the Finnish ports of Helsinki, Hamina and Rauma.
ABP Hull also contributes to the growing renewable energy industry by servicing Drax Power Station with the wood pellets it needs to produce biomass energy for the national grid, and works with Siemens on the £310m Green Port Hull development which manufactures wind turbine blades for the offshore wind farms.
And this brings me neatly on to Siemens, where plant director Jason Speedy, Chris Mackinnon and their teams were equally welcoming and gave me a tour of the amazing wind turbine blade factory and the rest of the huge, 78 football-pitches-sized Alexandra Dock site where they store the 75-metre blades and the 90-metre turbine towers.
Siemens have invested £160 million in this industry-leading wind turbine production and installation facility, which will supply DONG Energy for the Race Bank wind farm off the Norfolk and Lincolnshire coasts.This is a huge boost to the UK’s offshore wind industry and to the Humber regional economy; to date Siemens have created some 700 jobs for people in the city and surrounding hinterland, with the eventual figure to reach 1,000.
In addition, the wider Green Port Hull, with its 500 hectares of development land, is set to attract further investment and create even more employment opportunities. Indeed, the long-term vision is to make the Green Port not only a centre for offshore wind power production, but to create opportunities in biofuels, waste to energy, solar, wave and tidal power generation.
Finally, as mentioned at the start, both ABP and Siemens are key sponsors of the Hull City of Culture 2017, working with local groups, schools, colleges and the university to help showcase Hull as a vibrant centre for the arts and a gateway to Europe, all of which contributes to telling the story of this unique city. This convergence of industry, innovation and culture is a great boost to city of Hull.
Despite seeing all this great work, I remain deeply concerned about the implications that Brexit would have on these firms and the wider economy, possibly putting thousands of jobs at risk. If the government pursues the hard Brexit route of taking us out of not just the EU, but the single market and customs union as well, I fear for the consequences.