London Gateway, the first major new port to be built in the U.K. for several decades, will open for business on the north bank of the River Thames on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
The arrival of the MOL Caledon, a 5,000-TEU container ship operated by Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in a joint, weekly Europe-to-South Africa service, will launch a fierce battle for cargo with Felixstowe, the U.K.’s largest container port further up the east coast.
The $2.4 billion deep water terminal, located 24 miles east of downtown London, will handle the MOL Caledon at its first berth, which will be followed by a second in April and a third by the end of 2014.
London Gateway, which is owned by DP World, will have an initial annual capacity of 1.5 million 20-foot-equivalent units.
DP World is also building a 9 million square feet distribution depot, Europe’s largest, on land adjacent to the terminal, which it inherited in its takeover of the U.K.’s P&O Ports in 2005.
London Gateway’s first berth is one of only six in the U.K. capable of handling the largest 18,000-TEU container ships, but its opening coincides with flat traffic growth, particularly on the Asia-to-Europe trade. So far, the terminal has attracted only one customer, the Southern Africa Europe Container Service, which it poached from the smaller London port of Tilbury.
London Gateway is expected to pitch its marketing at services currently using Felixstowe, which handled 3.7 million TEUs or 42 percent of total U.K. box traffic in 2012, and second-ranked Southampton on the south coast, which handled 1.5 million TEUs at a terminal part owned by DP World.