THE Port of Blyth has proved it is weathering the storm created by the recession by notching up an increase in profits of more than £1m.
The port bounced back from recording a loss of almost £500,000 in 2010 to make an operating profit of more than £560,000 last year, latest figures reveal.
The group’s turnover of £16.3m was also up significantly on the £13.5m worth of business done the previous year.
That increase was credited to a strong performance by the port operation, with its seaborne, road-to-rail and road-to-road cargo trade all well up on the preceding 12 months.
At a public meeting held last week to present the port’s annual review, chief executive Martin Lawlor, pictured, admitted that the imminent shutdown of Rio Tinto Alcan’s Lynemouth smelter would hit the port hard but insisted that it would be able to recover.
Mr Lawlor said he was confident that any jobs lost at the port could be replaced – and additional jobs created – within just a couple of years.
He said: “We can’t deny that it will be a blow, not only to the port but to the region, but we believe, with major plans in the pipeline, we can deliver more benefit to the region.
“There are a number of major schemes in the pipeline.
“I think that while it will take two to three years to replace these jobs we have lost.
“It shows how far we have come from 2002-03, when we would have been looking at large-scale redundancies, whereas now we are looking to replace these jobs and more over the next few years.”
Board chairman Tom Dingwall, a former managing director of the Lynemouth aluminium plant and power station, added: “If the closure of Alcan had happened nine years ago, when I first started, Martin couldn’t have stood up and said what he did just now.
“Nine years ago, things would be very, very grim, and very serious decisions would have had to be taken, and very rapidly, to preserve the port.”
Having been granted planning permission for major facilities for the large-scale import of biomass materialsat Battleship Wharf, the port’s terminals will be brought close to capacity, although there is the option to expand terminals, as well as longer-term plans for the reclamation of land north of Battleship Wharf.
The biomass facilities are expected to serve Lynemouth power station when it is converted from coal use to biomass, as well as the proposed 100mw power station at Battleship Wharf, currently due to be decided by the Planning Inspectorate.