The Port of Sheerness’s top man has spoken of his ambitions for the area.
A Peel Ports consultation recently revealed 83% of residents asked backed proposals which could create 1,250 jobs over the next 20 years.
Port director Miles Hearn says part of this process has been
identifying key areas to focus on.
Car imports have grown by about 50% over the past few years and 325,000 new cars rolled through the port in the last 12 months – which accounted for 17% of all new cars in the UK.
This success has been driven by the development of customers Volkswagen and Gefco, which have both signed 10-year deals.
There has also been significant investment in the pre-delivery inspection centre which created around 100 jobs.
There are plans to set up a rail link between Sheerness and Liverpool and Mr Hearn envisages this bearing some of the brunt of the car transportation off the roads.
Cars imported through Sheerness could then travel by train up the north-west, perhaps stopping via a distribution centre in the Midlands and then other vehicles loaded on, taken back to Sheppey before being shipped to Europe.
Other sectors the port continues to develop in are forest products, like paper and timber, which has seen an 80% growth in the last three to four years, and steel to fuel the South East building trade.
The neighbouring steel mill features in the masterplan and Peel Ports is in discussions with owners Peel Land and Property, which is part of the same parent company but is a separate entity.
Options include building a road bridge over Brielle Way to link the two sites and make the most steelworks’ existing rail connections.
The land itself could be used to expand the port’s car business or for general storage purposes.
He added: “The reason the government are interested in port development is that we are increasingly an import nation.
“The market is really changing and it’s about getting the right diversity and agility.”