The plans are made, the drawings are done and the Port of Blyth is ready to go. Bates Quay, where the Geos Group’s marine fuel facility is situated, is now in the early stages of a major redevelopment programme. The vision is for a clean energy terminal, with solar panels, a port electrification system and a vocational training facility for the offshore wind industry. There will be businesses developing new low-carbon maritime technologies, and plans are afoot to extract heat for buildings from the water at a nearby mining site.
This is all very innovative and forward thinking, but the Port of Blyth is building on a long and interesting history dating back over 800 years. It was once a major transport hub for shipbuilding and coal, but its fortunes fell when these sectors went into decline in the last century. Since then, Blyth has successfully reinvented itself as a North Sea energy support base, focusing on services for offshore wind farms and the oil and gas industry.
Spread over four main terminals, Blyth offers cargo handling services and storage, a decommissioning facility, a RoRo pontoon, two heavy lift quays and deep-water access in almost every kind of weather. There is a training centre that provides port-related qualifications, and a heritage centre and restaurant at BEACH (Blyth Educational Community Hub) which is managed by the Blyth Tall Ships charity.
Much of the necessary groundwork for the redevelopment project at Bates Quay has now been done, in preparation for all the future activity planned. A new road has been installed between the terminal and the neighbouring Wimborne terminal, which is now officially known as part of Bates. The area all around our fuel tanks has been cleared of the last leftover mining equipment, levelled off and freshly landscaped, ready for green energy businesses to move in.
“They’re also redeveloping and improving the berth,” said Liz Winship, our Terminal Manager. “Going forward, this will benefit our customers, because vessels will be able do everything they need to do in one stop on the new improved berth, and take fuel at the same time.”
The building work has inevitably been a bit messy, but “there was no disruption to us because they worked around us,” said Liz. “The trucks and vessels were able to access the terminal throughout, and we always had continuation of service.”
Next year, construction will also start on a new enormous Gigafactory on the nearby former site of Blyth Power Station. The plant will produce the cells used in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, as the UK automotive industry phases out production of petrol and diesel engines. The Gigafactory project – due for completion in 2026 – will require £2.6 billion of industrial investment, and promises to create 3,000 new jobs in the northeast and a further 5,000 in the wider supply chain.
The future looks bright for the Port of Blyth, as it joins Britain’s quest for sustainable energy sources and a low-carbon economy. What this means for the Geos Group and the shipping industry as a whole remains to be seen, but it will be good to be here, right in the middle of it, as the future unfolds.