THE first container ship to sail directly from China to Scotland berthed at Greenock Ocean Terminal today — and will make the journey back to the Far East with one million bottles of whisky.
The vessel arrived on the Clyde carrying textiles, furniture, and toys for the Scottish market.
The new east and westbound freight route from Ningbo, China, is a partnership between KC Liner Agencies, DKT Allseas and China Xpress.
Three sailings will take place per month in each direction, calling at Ningbo, and the Chinese city of Shenzhen, before arriving in Greenock via its sister container terminal at the Port of Liverpool.
The route will be operated by six ships each capable of carrying about 1,600TEU [20-foot equivalent unit] containers.
Jim McSporran, Clydeport director at Peel Ports, said: “It’s great to finally welcome this vital service to Greenock Ocean Terminal.
“Our terminal is the perfect fit for such a global trade connection, and this is again shown by the significant volumes we will be helping ship back to China.
“We believe this partnership will prove to be a hugely positive development for businesses and customers, as well as boosting the wider supply chain, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners on this service in the coming months.”
David Milne, KC Group Shipping managing director, said: “We knew China Xpress was a service needed by many sectors, but still, we’ve been amazed at the level of immediate interest.
“It’s been a phenomenal success for KC Group Shipping, but this is just the first of many journeys and we need the support of Scottish importers and exporters to safeguard the long-term future of this new service.
“Our direct trading link to China cuts through frustrating transhipment delays which is a massive boost for Scottish businesses, and can only help consumers in these difficult times.
“We’ll be toasting the success of more than one million bottles of Scotch whisky being traded from the first vessel alone, and we’ll raise a glass to all the other businesses which will also benefit.
“I described this as a game-changer for Scotland, and the uptake in the service is certainly proving that case, for Scotland’s furniture, pharmaceuticals, packaging and spirits sectors.”
Councillor Stephen McCabe, leader of Inverclyde Council, said: “The freight side of Greenock Ocean Terminal can often be overshadowed and sometimes forgotten about because of the busy cruise ship schedule.
“But the container shipping side of the terminal has also grown substantially in recent years and the new Glasgow City Region cruise ship visitor centre development, including the dedicated cruise ship pontoon, has created more capacity for both container and passenger vessels to aid the continued growth of both markets and further boost the economy locally, regionally and nationally.
“The decision by KC Shipping to establish this direct link from Greenock to China –- the first in Scotland –- combined with the visitor centre development and ambitious Clyde Green Freeport bid is a ringing endorsement of Greenock and Inverclyde as an important location for exports, imports and visitors and long may that continue.”
The direct sailings will significantly reduce transit times, compared to feeder services via continental Europe or other southern UK ports.