Freight News, Rail, Sea

WEC Lines adds Bilbao-UK east coast link

[ September 24, 2020   //   ]

Shortsea and intermodal operator WEC Lines is to launch a new weekly service linking Bilbao and north-central Spain with Thamesport, Immingham, Teesport and Blyth. A regular ship shuttle service operated by the MV Freya departs Bilbao on Wednesdays at 17.00 with arrival into the four UK ports, with transhipment at the Dutch port of Moerdijk, the following Saturday. Departures in the return direction from the UK are at midnight on Saturday, arriving into Bilbao at 12.00 noon on Tuesdays. There are frequent departures from Moerdijk to all four UK ports.

Connections by rail or road are available to and from the Spanish cities of Barcelona, Zaragoza, Madrid and Valencia. Rail and road connections are also available in the UK between Teesport and Mossend and Grangemouth.

UK managing director, Roger Megann said: “WEC Lines is responding to the market demand to bring containers closer to the cargo owners door. By removing the road miles from the equation, cargo owners will benefit from reduced costs, less congestion, lower emissions, and improved control over their stock.”

He added that it would bring a new and reliable logistics solution to a market “where choice has previously been lacking.” He predicted that demand for container services would increase up to and after 1 January 2021. He told FBJ that he believed the new route would be the first direct link between Bilbao and the UK east coast.

It is also one of the few regular liner services to operate into Blyth – about 20 miles north of Newcastle – where there is significant potential from the local chemical and paper industries.

He added that with predictions of severe congestion at UK ro ro ports, rising trucking costs and a growing unwillingness by Continental drivers to visit the UK, the prospects for short-sea container shipping had never looked better. Containers would offer similar transit times to single-manned trucks and a high degree of dependability, coupled with lower emissions and costs.

He cited the example of Turkey, which until a few years ago had been mainly a truck market, but had now switched significantly to intermodal.

The Spain/UK freight market has held up well in the face of the Covid crisis. While there was a slight dip when consumers stopped stockpiling goods, it has now recovered, Megann stated.

A range of equipment can be carried, including 40’ and 45’ high-cube palletwide boxes. No reefers are currently carried but it may be considered in future.

Possible future developments could include increased frequency on the core route from Bilbao to Moerdijk and also operating the vessel direct from Bilbao into one or more of the UK ports, Megann said.

Other WEC services include Liverpool to and from Setubal and Leixoes weekly, between Tilbury and Vigo, Leixoes, Lisbon and Setubal and between Liverpool and Barcelona and Valencia. WEC also covers Morocco, Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores and the Cape Verde islands.

Commodities moving from Iberia to the UK include food and beverages, chemicals and tiles. In the return direction, the UK exports waste products and there is also potential for car parts and chemicals.