Last summer one of the UK’s largest ports businesses PD Ports made an important move in the Humber region with the acquisition of Groveport for an undisclosed sum.

The deal for the privately owned port complex at Gunness on the River Trent significantly expanded PD Ports’ involvement with the steel sector and also forest products. At the time of the acquisition, Groveport MD Martin Rees said the move was a positive natural progression for the port which would see it become the major asset within PD Ports’ Humber activities.

PD Ports, which is owned by Brookfield, already had two other ports in the region – Keadby and Howden, which both handle timber, while at the Port of Immingham it has warehousing space and is the largest stevedore company.

It also has a large warehousing and distribution facility at Scunthorpe close to TATA Steel, while also managing Hull Container Terminal.

"Historically the Humber has been an attractive base for us because of the size and scale of businesses fed by it," said Geoff Lippitt, PD Ports’ business development director,

The acquisition of Groveport saw PD Ports’ involvement in the timber cargo sector multiply by several times with some 100,000m3 of timber throughput at the port annually.

In total PD Ports handles about 125,000m3 of timber in the Humber area, including timber handled at the short-sea ports of Keadby and Howden.

"Groveport complements the two East Coast ports businesses that we already had in a series of sectors where we had scale," said Mr Lippitt.

"We had been looking for acquisitions for a number of years and it presented us with a good landside platform.

"Before we acquired Groveport, timber was a relatively small cargo for us."

"But we’re seeing a lot of timber coming downstream in our customers’ products coming in for the construction sector."

Existing Groveport timber sector clients include Lacy & Middlemiss, Rowlinson Timber and BSW, with Scotline also having facilities.

Rowlinson keeps the bulk of its UK stock at the facility and has a 26,000ft2 treatment facility built by Tweddle Engineering at the site. The company has an appetite for investment of its treatment facilities at the port, including the prospect of adding lowpressure treatment in the future.

Mr Lippitt said Groveport offered plenty of capacity to offer clients.

Groveport is effectively the largest privately-owned inland port in the UK, covering some 190 acres and 12 useable berths, 14 heavy lift quayside cranes and warehousing covering nearly 20,000m2 and open storage area of 450,000m2.

Groveport handles one million tonnes of cargo annually, including bulk materials, timber and steel.

It is primarily known for imported steel products, handling annual volumes totalling 400,000-500,000 tonnes, compared with packaged timber products comprising about 70,000-80,000 tonnes.

PD Ports’ extensive services at the port, supplemented by Keadby and Howden, include chartering, ships agency, stevedoring, warehousing, road transport, bespoke customer facilities, land for future development and IT solutions.

Mr Lippitt said PD Ports had concentrated on a smooth transition of ownership in the six months since acquiring the port and it was "business as usual".

PD Ports’ aspiration for Groveport includes integration with the wider group strategy, which Mr Lippitt said may involve offering some new cargoes there and doing more with existing cargoes.

The acquisition comes at a time when timber cargo is under pressure in large ports from seemingly more lucrative competitor cargoes.

Mr Lippitt acknowledged that the biomass sector and other industries taking some of the place of timber was a long-term trend in the ports industry and did change the dynamic of water lanes on the river.

"One of our intentions with the acquisition of Groveport is to respond to that," added Mr Lippitt.

He added that PD Ports wanted to communicate that it was not just about stevedoring at Immingham but being better able to meet customer requirements in the timber sector.