In researching the shipping conference calendar I came across the “Short Sea 13 European Conference” . Having lived in Falmouth and Plymouth I have always had an affinity with short sea shipping, as these are the ships you see every day. But once working in London the deep sea took over. Now that more and more of the commercial side of deep sea shipping is moving to the Far East, maybe it is time to look closer to home and the UK short sea scene.
The person to speak to is Peter Baker, of PRB Associates. Mr Baker is based in Grimsby, which to Londoners is scarily a long way “Up North”. It is a part of the major Humber ports hub for North Sea ferries. Indeed, having worked for a terminal and ferry operator in Immingham, Mr Baker set up his own consultancy business in 1998. Today, PRB Associates is still closely involved in research and analysis on short sea “unit load” activities.
The term “unit load” is used to differentiate from the homogeneous bulk mode. Mr Baker has produced a cunning methodology that harmonises the complex capacity mix on short sea ferries of lane metre, deck height space and container capacity into a transparent trailer, or feu equivalent. As far as I am aware PRB Associates is the only company producing an annual survey of the UK short sea scene, and to my mind the methodology is an elegant solution to the vexing issue of ferry capacity.
“I have tried to express capacity in consistent terms that are relevant to the market, no matter the type of ferry, or if trailers are accompanied or unaccompanied.” said Mr Baker. The annual capacity report is a valuable tool for ferry operators and ports. Indeed, I wish I had been aware of the report when I was working in the bank. With so little information available the banks rely on the information the short sea ferry owners supply, but have no third party report to collaborate or mitigate the information.
Are other regional reports available? “I produce an annual Irish Capacity Report and have produced a report on Baltic ferry and container service capacity for a conference in the Baltic” said Mr Baker, and could do so again if asked. You can catch up with Mr Baker in Paris next week at the “Short Sea 13 European Conference” or direct through the PRB Associates website.