2019 Operations & Development Activity
Marine Services are the heartbeat of our operations. Our principal purpose (the purpose for which we were created) is to move ships safely and efficiently within the Port. These operations also provide our main source of revenue. To that end, 2019 was a very busy and successful year.
Close to 2,000 commercial vessels used the Port. Arrivals of dues paying shipping increased by 14% from 2018, and cargo tonnes increased by 13% to 35m. Increased numbers of visits by LNG vessels were largely responsible for the growth, with 103 ships entering the Port in 2019, where 2018 saw just 40. Our launch crews, pilots and support teams deserve huge credit for safely handling the increased traffic in what can sometimes be challenging conditions.
Our investment in marine operations focused on three areas: people, equipment and infrastructure. Our investments in people in 2019 saw us take on 5 new staff in the pilot launch crews, taking the total to 20. Expanding the team by a third underlined our commitment not only to the quality and resilience of our service to our customers, but also to our marine staff, who should be confident they can fulfil their roles with the necessary resources behind them. Similarly, we expanded personnel numbers available to Port Control.
Equipment wise, we invested significantly to update our SafePilot systems, vital positioning and route planning equipment used by our pilots to aid them whilst manoeuvring visiting ships. We also invested in new rudders for one of our Saint class pilot launches, along with more intelligent monitoring systems that we hope will help us further refine the performance of the newest generation of pilot boats in the challenging conditions in which they operate. A trials programme is taking place in 2020 while we continue to manage our existing vessels to maintain a resilient fleet.
Infrastructure investment is planned for 2020 with the upgrade of our VHF radio systems and improvements to the pilot launch jetty.
2019 was a notable year for Pembroke Port’s cargo operations. Not only did we record the highest quay occupancy rates in recent years (due in large part to the long dwell time of vessels involved in shipping out the remains of the Murco refinery), but the Port also received the necessary permits to store and handle a wider range of materials, including waste to energy products. This enhanced capability will open up new cargo handling opportunities which the team will be pursuing in 2020.
An in-depth assessment has also been carried out of the potential business to be had from some of the c.9,000 vessels that pass the Milford Haven Waterway each year. More than half of the vessels could be accommodated at Quay 1. There is considerable economic potential in attracting some of these passing vessels for repairs, resupply or other work. The maritime and engineering supply chain on hand in and around Pembroke Port is world-class and if the Port can successfully develop the proposition, the benefits to the local businesses would be considerable.
Ferry terminal traffic was down in 2019.
The team at Pembroke Dock Ferry Terminal maintained their consistently safe and fast turnaround times and also welcomed a new Irish Ferries vessel, the WB Yeats, to PDFT in October. A trial berthing was carried out for the larger ship ahead of her temporary replacement of the Isle of Inishmore, which will be in dry dock for a short period in 2020.
Meanwhile, work began to create additional holding capacity at the ferry terminal which will accommodate extra freight units within our secure area. There will also be extra space outside the secure area, but still within the Port, for tractor units.
The Fish Docks recorded a good year in 2019 with landed catches up considerably on 2018 totals. There was an increase from 2,576 tonnes to 3,321 tonnes coming over the quay. There was also an increase in berthing dues.
The lock gates performed extremely well in 2019, following a major upgrade of hydraulics systems. The system now allows 24/7 lockings and port staff can provide locks on demand.
In June we hosted the Seafish Board, the UK body set up to improve standards across the seafood industry, when they came to Pembrokeshire to hold one of their travelling board meetings. The Board joined us for a presentation explaining our investment in, and support for, the future of the industry here in Milford Haven.
A grant award from the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) supported investment in new dockside facilities at the end of 2019, including a new Hiab crane that will help fishermen offload their catch more safely and efficiently, and refurbished welfare facilities for crews. Work on the upgrades will be completed in 2020. This project is part-funded through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union.
Milford Marina hit a remarkable target in 2019, achieving over 100% peak berth occupancy and a seasonal average of 92%; this is a record for the marina. Feedback gathered from customers in February 2019, saw the Marina score highly with 97% of berth holders saying they would recommend Milford Marina to other boat owners. Elements such as the quality of customer service, easy access to the marina due to the upgraded lock gates, access to 24-hour refuelling and the close proximity of shops and restaurants are all helping to deliver what our berth holders want.
The Marina also hosted two rallies which brought guest yachts from as far afield as the Netherlands. We also saw a significant increase in liveaboard vessels (boats with permanent residents aboard) in the Marina, adding to a strong sense of a settled community that our staff have been working hard to nurture.
2019 saw a continued rise in visitor numbers coming to Milford Waterfront as our tourism team hosted three major events: Milford Fish Festival, Milfood Haven Street Food Festival and the Beer Festival. The annual Firework Display organised by Milford Haven Round Table, Milford Chowder Trail and the weekly Milford Waterfront parkrun also brought in the crowds. It is clear the hard work of the tourism team to build a reputation for Milford Waterfront as a visitor destination is paying off. Articles in national papers and magazines all added to a well-deserved sense of achievement. Some exceptional summer holiday weather also helped. Retailers, restaurants and cafés reported a busy season in 2019, a positive sign that benefits of the Port’s investment to encourage people to ‘eat, shop, enjoy and stay' at Milford Waterfront is being felt by other businesses.
The brand new Floatel Cabins in the marina were well reviewed. The boutique floating accommodation started welcoming guests in July and gained Gold and Quality accreditations from Visit Wales. The Cabins were part funded by the Coastal Communities Fund (the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estate’s marine assets. It is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government and Devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The Discover Coast and Cleddau boat trips were also busy during the holidays. We also planned for some off-season activity with winter bird watching tours which commenced in January 2020.
The project to develop a Sense of Place for Milford Haven progressed in 2019. A Place Board, with members from the town’s business community, was formed to deliver projects and initiatives to help create a memorable experience for visitors coming to Milford Haven. The historic and cultural Sense of Place themes are “Water Ways”, “Energy Kingdom” and “Historic Haven”, and these now form an important part of events and the marketing of Milford Waterfront.
Weather proved challenging for our cruise ship schedule, with six cancellations. We did welcome two calls and it was a great opportunity to showcase the rich history of the town to these international travellers. Our teams continue to work on attracting more cruise ships to both Milford Haven and Pembroke Port.
2019 was a big year for Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM), the Port-led project to develop a world leading marine energy and engineering centre of excellence here in Pembrokeshire, with key local and regional approval milestones reached. The Port's Board also ratified a decision to invest record sums in the project. We now await the formal and final funding decision by the Wales and UK Governments so we and our partners (Marine Energy Wales, ORE Catapult and Wave Hub Ltd) can start delivering this transformational project.
This project’s strength has been proven by the sheer number of hurdles that have been overcome during the long process to secure funding. This progress is also a testament to the close collaboration and hard work done by our team, our local partners and national stakeholders. We are now positioned to engage more at a local level, and this will be a key activity for 2020.
We also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Pembroke Dock-based developer Bombora Wave Power and whilst this added to a growing list of wave and tidal investors with whom we have collaborated, 2020 looks set to bring a new player, floating offshore wind power, into the mix as well. Floating offshore wind quite literally bases much of its capability, and its attractive price point, on technologies developed by the oil and gas and fixed offshore wind industries. There is a
significant opportunity off our coastline so we are well placed, with the region’s high skill supply chain, to act as a service and supply hub for the industry.
Collaboration has also been central to two other projects worked on by the Energy team in 2019. The piSCES project, an EU Ireland Wales Interreg funded project partnership, has been developing technology to drive down energy intensive fish processing costs and maximise the use of renewable energy. Funding was also awarded (in early 2020) for the Haven Energy Kingdom project, led by Pembrokeshire County Council, which will be exploring the viability of hydrogen as a future energy for heat, light and power on the Waterway. This is an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund ‘Prospering from the Energy Revolution’ project.
The Port has been investing in measures to reduce carbon intensive energy use across its own operations with the installation of air source and biomass heating systems, improved insulation and LED lighting.
Retail, Tourism & Leisure
The Milford Waterfront development took a significant step forward in November when planners approved the outline masterplan for regeneration and redevelopment of the area. The proposals comprise more than 460,000 sq ft of mixed use, commercial, leisure, retail and fishing-related floor space with additional marina berths as well as new public spaces and gardens. The scheme is expected to create more than 600 jobs.
As part of the development, in December, the Port submitted plans for a new 100 bed waterside hotel on the site of the disused Burnyeats building, and a new conference and events centre to be built out of the Grade II listed Quay Stores building. If approved, work on both projects will commence in late spring.
Challenging trading conditions continue to dampen economic activity at Havens Head Retail Park with retailers finding overheads associated with some of the larger units too costly in the current climate. In response, the Port began a process of subdividing floorspace into smaller units to make them more suitable for current and potential tenants. It is expected that commencement of works on the neighbouring multi-million-pound Milford Waterfront development in 2020 will also have a positive effect on the retail park.