‘Banana boats’ get longer at Portsmouth International Port

Portsmouth International Port has welcomed its largest ever cargo ship.  At 211-metres in length, the Maersk Antwerp Trader arrived from Colombia with a cargo of bananas.

The arrival of the container ship at Albert Johnson Quay marked a change in business for MMD Ltd, the Port-owned fruit import specialists.  Previously cargo on the route from Central America had been carried on traditional reefer vessels, largely transported on pallets. However, Fyffes are now using larger ships, with all the bananas being kept in containers.

Hundreds of containers full of fruit were unloaded by MMD staff when the vessel arrived at Portsmouth International Port, which was the first port of call for the vessel on its journey from Colombia.

It then headed off to Antwerp and Rotterdam.  This also marked a major change as previously reefer vessels carrying Fyffes bananas called at Antwerp first before sailing onto Portsmouth.

This was also the first of a new weekly service operated by Maersk Line, the world’s largest shipping company, and made possible by a recent £5 million pound investment in the Port’s future.  Recent work to demolish the ‘Floating Dock Jetty’ means Maersk Line can bring its vessels to Portsmouth, with easier navigation within the Port.

Port Manager, Martin Putman, greeted the vessel on arrival.  A new container handler, purchased to unload such cargoes, is part of the new investment that Mr Putman believes is safeguarding the future of the Port.

Martin Putman said: “This is an important milestone for Portsmouth International Port.  Not only does it show how necessary recent investment has been, making the Port safer for bigger vessels, but it also demonstrates our ability to be flexible in a dynamic market, delivering the changes that our customers require.  The Port is moving with the times and cruising into the container age.”

Cllr Donna Jones, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, added: "It is fantastic news that we have welcomed the biggest cargo ship to have ever visited Portsmouth and it shows our ambition for the port and MMD as a council-owned business.

“We have made significant investment in the port and it is now in an even stronger position to compete for business from around the world and create new jobs and opportunities for those in the city."